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EPA Awards $15,000 to Old Dominion University for Low-Cost Lead Removal from Drinking Water

Contact Information: 
David Sternberg (

PHILADELPHIA (March 22, 2018) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it is providing a $15,000 grant to the Old Dominion University Research Foundation to design and develop a low-cost household water filter using biochar for removing lead from drinking water.

The grant was part of more than $463,000 in funding nationally for 31 Phase I university student teams through the People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) grants program. These teams, made up of college students from across the country, are developing sustainable technologies to solve current environmental and public health challenges.

“This year’s P3 teams are applying their classroom learning to create valuable, cutting-edge technologies,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This next generation of scientists is designing sustainable solutions that will help protect public health and the environment and ensure America continues to lead the world in innovation and science for decades to come.”

Funding for the P3 competition is divided into two phases. Teams selected for Phase I awards receive grants of up to $15,000 to fund the demonstration of their projects, which will then be showcased at the National Sustainable Design Expo. The 2018 Expo is scheduled to be held at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, April 7-8. Phase I teams are eligible to compete for Phase II awards of up to $75,000 to further develop and implement their designs. 

Heavy metal contamination in drinking water is a growing concern due to its severe health effects in humans, especially children. Children exposed to lead in drinking water may suffer damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, impaired formation and function of blood cells, and other adverse health effects.

Conventional processes like activated carbon for the adsorption of metals such as lead are expensive. The proposed biochar filter is an easy-to-use system that works in residential faucets and is easily installed. It is also effective in natural water conditions and does not require any pH adjustment.  Biochar is believed to be a cost-effective substitute to activated carbon in lead adsorption because of its porous structure, irregular surface, and high surface to volume ratio.

The project aims to develop a user-friendly technology that efficiently removes lead from potable water and ensures the right for pure, clean drinking water for developed and developing countries all over the world. The Old Dominion Team also believes this project will provide a good outreach opportunity for educating the public, especially school students in the local community.

Reducing childhood lead exposure and addressing associated health impacts is a top priority for the Trump Administration and EPA. On February 16, Administrator Pruitt hosted key members of the Trump Administration to collaborate on a federal strategy making childhood lead exposure a priority for their respective departments and agencies.

More information on the federal strategy to reduce childhood lead exposure:

More information about lead:

To learn more about the projects of the 2017 Phase I winners, visit:

For more information on the P3 Program, visit: