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2016 People's Choice

Status of Main Author

Undergraduate Student


Civil and Environmental Engineering


Jellison, Kristen

Publication Date



Although biosand filters (BSFs) have been implemented in over 55 countries to provide safe drinking water, the necessity of operating filters on a daily basis has raised questions about filter efficacy after a period of abandonment (e.g., due to travels away from home or school vacations when students/faculty are not present to use institutional filters every day). Presently, the safe recommendation for abandoned filters is to deconstruct and rebuild. An assessment of the effectiveness of revitalized BSFs was conducted on two full-scale concrete BSFs, two 5-gallon bucket BSFs, and two 2-gallon bucket BSFs that were abandoned for two years. The filters were revitalized by rehydration (as needed), swirl-and-dump sand cleaning, tubing disinfection, and flushing. The performance of the revitalized filters was compared to that of two newly built concrete filters by measuring influent and effluent levels of Escherichia coli, Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts, and turbidity. Influent water was collected from a local creek to provide adequate nutrients to support biolayer development and to emulate field use. The log removal of E. coli and C. parvum by each filter was calculated by testing the two subsequent effluents following each spike. In addition, turbidity of each influent and effluent was measured to determine percent reduction. Flow rates of the filters, as well as water quality measurements of influent and effluent water (i.e., conductivity, phosphates, ammonia, total nitrogen), were evaluated weekly. The data show that revitalized BSFs are comparable to newly built filters, simplifying the continued use of drinking water treatment systems in developing nations.

Author Notes

Michelle is a third-year student majoring in environmental engineering. A Clare Boothe Luce Research Scholar, she has been involved in Professor Jellison’s lab over the last year. This past summer, Michelle and her research partner, Cathy Fletcher, began the biosand filter project, testing the efficacy of revitalized BSFs that had been abandoned for two years, for which intermediary results were presented last September at the New England Graduate Student Water Symposium, as well as the STEPS & Environmental Initiative Research Seminar. Outside of research, Michelle is also the treasurer of the Lehigh University Philharmonic Orchestra. Having studied violin for over thirteen years, she plays in the orchestra, the Dirac Quartet, and Mariachi Montaña del Sur, but is branching out artistically as a member of Leela Indian Fusion Dance. After graduation, Michelle hopes to pursue a master’s degree in environmental biotechnology.

Catherine Fletcher is a junior studying Environmental Engineering at Lehigh University. She has served the Office of First-Year Experience as a PreLUsion Leader, Camp Hawk Counselor, Camp Hawk Guide, and Evolution Peer Leader. Catherine has been involved in the revitalization of abandoned biosand filters project under the guidance of Dr. Kristen Jellison since May 2015. She has previously presented the intermediate results at the New England Graduate Student Water Symposium as well as the STEPS & Environmental Initiative Research Seminar last fall. Her future plans are to obtain a job in water treatment after graduation in 2017.

Leigh Heinbokel is currently a junior Environmental Engineer. She is from Westfield, NJ, and has always had a passion for the field of Environmental Engineering. She went on a program to Ghana over this past winter break, and helped women in a rural village implement a water purification system. It was a three week long trip, and an amazing professional and character building experience. Last semester, she worked on Professor Jellison’s bio-sand project with three other undergraduates, testing the effectiveness of abandoned bio-sand filters. This upcoming semester, the team of four is joining two seniors to work on discovering the effects of silver nitrate on Cryptosporidium.

Kristen Mejia is a third year undergraduate student at Lehigh. She is pursuing a degree in IDEAS with concentrations in Environmental Engineering, Women gender Sexuality Studies, Health Medicine Society, and Political Science. Kristen is extremely active on campus as she is the recruitment and retention chair of Lambda Theta Alpha. She is a member of the Rossin Junior Fellows and well as the nominated Undergraduate Representative for Lehigh’s Engineering Dean Search Committee. She is a gryphon in Taylor House and also loves to dance with African Renaissance. Her passion for water and its international implications stems from her own family history and she is determined to continue working on these issues well into the future. Not only has research given her an avenue to continue delving into her passions, but she has also been able to discover a world of questions and answers that she will continue to help solve.

Revitalization of Abandoned Biosand Filters