Students: Nora Abbott, Ann Foley, Ava Hudson

Project: Laboratory and Field Methods Developed for Biosand Filter Sand Characterization

View: Research Poster (PDF)

Institution: Lehigh University

Major: Civil and Environmental Engineering, IDEAS

Advisor: Kristen Jellison


Many developing countries lack the resources and funds needed to effectively purify their drinking water using traditional, centralized, large-scale water treatment processes. As a result, people turn to alternative household treatment technologies, such as biosand filters (BSF), to produce potable water.  Two key parameters used to target optimal BSF performance are the Effective Size (ES) and Uniformity Coefficient (UC) of the sand. The ES and the UC are calculated from a particle size distribution (PSD) curve, which is generated by sieving a sand sample of known mass and recording the mass of sand that accumulates on sieves of increasingly smaller size. Because access to a laboratory balance is a challenge when constructing a BSF in a developing region, the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) has developed a field protocol for measuring the ES and UC of sand using portable field sieves and a sand size distribution curve based on the volume (rather than mass) of sand captured on each sieve. Although this protocol is widely accepted, there has been little investigation into whether the CAWST field method is an acceptable alternative to the laboratory method. This study compares variations in laboratory and CAWST methods to characterize BSF sand, including laboratory versus field sieves, mass versus volume measurements, and computer versus hand-drawn PSD curves. Results show how the sand grain distribution data obtained with the conventional mass-based grain size distributions compares with the data obtained with the field-adapted volume-based grain size distributions for five different sand samples.

Nora Abbott

About Nora Abbott

Nora Abbott is a junior environmental engineering major. She is also pursuing a global studies minor and certificate in population health. Nora joined Professor Kristen Jellison’s laboratory during the spring of 2019 and began the current biosand filtration research project as a STEPS-EI Summer 2020 Research Fellow. She aspires to complete a master’s degree in environmental health, and use her education and experiences to improve global health and well-being through improved sanitation and water quality. Outside of her research, Nora is the president of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team and is a Rossin Junior Fellow (College of Engineering undergraduate mentor).

Ann Foley

About Ann Foley

Ann Foley is a senior in the IDEAS program, with focuses in environmental engineering and earth and environmental science. Ann began working in Professor Jellison’s laboratory in August 2019 and is on the Biosand Filter research team. Ann is interested in this area because access to potable water is a relevant issue that affects many people around the world. She enjoys working hands-on in the laboratory outside a classroom setting and hopes to deepen her collaborative, critical thinking, and technical writing skills. In her free time, Ann is a member of the Lehigh Swimming and Diving team and enjoys hiking, snowboarding, and reading in her free time. Next semester, Ann will be pursuing a master’s degree in environmental policy at Lehigh University as a Presidential Scholar to prepare herself for a career promoting conservation, sustainability, and environmental justice.

Ava Hudson

About Ava Hudson

Ava Hudson is a junior pursuing an environmental engineering major and a philosophy minor. Ava joined Professor Kristen Jellison’s Biosand Filter Research team in the spring of 2021 and is excited to apply what she has learned in the classroom to a hands-on research laboratory. She plans to complete a master’s degree in environmental engineering and is considering the pursuit of her PhD as well. Ava aspires to use her Lehigh education to improve environmental justice and sustainable development that promotes health and sanitation in developing countries. When she is not in the classroom, Ava is a team captain for the Lehigh University Women’s Volleyball team. She also enjoys traveling, hiking, and spending time at the beach in her Southern California hometown.