Feb 05, 2007

National Academy of Engineering Announces Winners of $1 Million

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced the winners of the 2007 Grainger Challenge Prize for Sustainability. The contest sought innovative solutions for removing arsenic from drinking water that is slowly poisoning tens of millions of people in developing countries. Three prizes were awarded from a field of more than 70 entries.

The prize winners were recognized for the development, in-field verification, and dissemination of effective techniques for reducing arsenic levels in water. The systems had to be affordable, reliable, easy to maintain, socially acceptable, and environmentally friendly. All of the winning systems met or exceeded the local government guidelines for arsenic removal and required no electricity.

The prizes will be presented at a gala dinner in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 20, 2007.

Abul Hussam, an associate professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., will receive the Grainger Challenge Gold Award of $1 million for his SONO filter, a household water treatment system.

Arup K. SenGupta, John E. Greenleaf, Lee M. Blaney, Owen E. Boyd, Arun K. Deb, and the nonprofit organization Water For People will share the Grainger Challenge Silver Award of $200,000 for their community water treatment system. SenGupta is P.C. Rossin Senior Professor and a professor of chemical engineering and of civil and environmental engineering at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. Boyd is chief executive officer of SolmeteX Co. in Northborough, Mass. Deb is a retired vice president of Roy F. Weston Inc. (now Weston Solutions Inc.) in West Chester, Pa. Greenleaf is a Ph.D. candidate in civil and environmental engineering, and Blaney recently earned a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering; they performed laboratory research under SenGupta at Lehigh University.

The Children's Safe Drinking Water Program at Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G), Cincinnati, will receive the Grainger Challenge Bronze Award of $100,000 for the PURTM Purifier of Water coagulation and flocculation water treatment system. Greg Allgood, director of the Children's Safe Drinking Water Program, will accept the prize for P&G.

The Gold Award-winning SONO filter is a point-of-use method for removing arsenic from drinking water. A top bucket is filled with locally available coarse river sand and a composite iron matrix (CIM). The sand filters coarse particles and imparts mechanical stability, while the CIM removes inorganic arsenic. The water then flows into a second bucket where it again filters through coarse river sand, then wood charcoal to remove organics, and finally through fine river sand and wet brick chips to remove fine particles and stabilize water flow. The SONO filter is now manufactured and used in Bangladesh.

The Grainger Foundation, of Lake Forest, Ill., was established in 1949 by Mr. & Mrs. William Wallace Grainger. It has provided substantive support over the years to a broad range of organizations including educational institutions, museums, and healthcare and human services providers.

A significant aspect of reviewing the finalists for the Grainger Challenge Prize was physical testing of the candidate systems. NAE and The Grainger Foundation expressed deep appreciation to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development for hosting the testing at its National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, as well as to the facility's contractor, Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure Inc., for conducting the tests under contract with the NAE.