A scientist at Aberdeen University has discovered a byproduct of whiskey production that can be used to purify water. Dr. Leigh Cassidy had the idea to use draff, the leftover residue from barley husks when making alcohol, as a cleansing agent when working on a project targeting arsenic in Bangladesh groundwater. Modifying the draff with a secret ingredient, Cassidy created an organic compound she named Dram, which combined with local ingredients has proven to purify water contaminated with harmful levels of arsenic.
More people are poisoned by arsenic contamination in Bangladesh than anywhere else in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with 77 million people at risk every day. Dr. Cassidy’s suggestion to use draff was first dismissed by her colleagues, but the determined scientist decided to go forward with her experiments.
Adding an ingredient she is keeping secret, the purification process also combines ingredients that are found in Bangladesh, like coconut shells and rice husks, which act as natural filters that trap arsenic particles. The process uses a stainless steel piece that connects with contaminated water that is then pumped into the filter zone. Once this process is complete, the purified water is pumped out and collected.
Canadian relief program PurifAid, which was founded by Shahreen Reza from Bangladesh, has adopted Cassidy’s Dram process in order to help villagers in Bangladesh. Using a franchise model, locals will help in the purification process using Dram and delivering purified water to other villagers. The Dram process removes around 95 percent of arsenic from contaminated water.