The P3 BioSand Bag Filter Co. announced their product’s global availability in New Paltz on Jan. 30., eight years after Don Kerr, founder and president of the BioSand Bag Filter, patented the idea of a lightweight, portable community water treatment system that has been used in developing nations to treat tainted water.
As an executive recruiter working in the water treatment field, Kerr was inspired to create the P3 BioSand Bag Filter after a friend from Ghana recalled the terrible conditions of the water that children had to drink, Kerr said.
“When Joakim Lartey returned home for a visit, he was appalled at the brown water that children were running through a bed sheet before drinking,” Kerr said. “Knowing that I was in the water business, Joakim implored me to do something – passing on his father’s wisdom that any solution must be simple and contain replacement parts that could be found in Ghana.”
Currently, more than 780 million people drink unsafe water and 2.5 billion people live without sanitation facilities, according to unicef.org. Globally, 4,000 children die each day from drinking unsanitary water.
According to the BioSand Bag website, the device needed to work without the use of fuel, pumps or electricity because these people are the “poorest of the poor” and do not have access to those resources.
Kerr’s neighbor, Matthew Geho who also works in the water industry, helped with initial design and quality control of the bag. He said that the original concrete structure was replaced with a light weight material that can be taken apart and carried on donkeys and the sand, which is used as the filter, is an available resource in most of the developing nations.
“Is it an end all means to water purification? No,” Geho said. “We are looking to bring developing nations a means to a consistent supply of [treated] water.”
Powered by gravity, the BioSand Bag uses a slow sand filter, an ancient method of filtration that is used in the City of Poughkeepsie’s water treatment plant, Kerr said.
The sand filter works through a 10 to 20 day formation of a biofilm layer, known as the Schmutzdecke, which is a fine, gelatinous layer composed of organic decomposers such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, rotifer and a variety of aquatic insect larvae, according to the BioSand website.
The Schmutzdecke serves as the purification method, trapping foreign particles and pathogen causing bacteria that are then metabolized by the mix of the microscopic organisms, according to biosandbag.com.
Kerr and his team conducted the first “pilot run” of the filter on Oct. 11, 2009 on Taliaferro Farms in the Wallkill River Valley, according to the website. The freezing weather conditions compromised the experiment, so a second test was performed in December of 2009.
“We built several prototypes at Taliaferro’s CSA Farm on Plains Road,” Kerr said. “It was important for us to fine tune our product in the real world…We were able to demonstrate 99 percent removal of E-Coli, viruses and other bacteria that make people sick.”
The BioSand Bag can provide clean water to a community of 100 people and is comprised of fewer than 20 parts, according to the website. Aside from its use in Ghana in 2005, the filter was used in November 2012 to treat water in Amrit Sagar Eco-Park in Varanasi, India.
Kerr said that in 2007, his team reached out to the New Paltz community in an effort called “Adopt A Bag” and collected donations to send a filter to Malawi in Africa.
“We worked in partnership with a reputable NGO with a good track record,” he said. “The Malawi project manager assigned to our filter project became pregnant and left the country shortly after our filter arrived. That was the first of several failed international installations.”
Now open for business and ready to ship the filters to nations in need, Kerr said he would like the help of community members, especially from students.
“We seek education from students who have knowledge of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We seek hardware and plumbing supply chains who might act as distributors for our system,” he said. “Until we have identified partners outside of the USA, we will be shipping from New Paltz.”