Removal of toxic arsenic(iii) from an old endemic black-foot disease groundwater by oxidative electrosorption

P. A. Chen, C. Y. Peng, S. H. Liu, H. Paul Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental context: Naturally occurring arsenic was the likely cause of endemic black foot disease in groundwaters in Taiwan, and levels still exceed Taiwan EPA water quality standards. A method for the clean-up of these groundwaters that is both feasible and environmentally friendly is urgently needed. Oxidation of As(III) as H3AsO3 to the less toxic As(V)- and removal of As in groundwater was performed quantitatively by electrosorption using materials derived from agricultural wastes; this shows that this method has the potential to be a novel, green remediation method. Rationale: Naturally occurring arsenic in the groundwater caused black-foot disease (BFD) in the 1950s on the southwest seashore of Taiwan. Recently, we found that the concentration of arsenic in groundwater taken from currently sealed wells in areas previously affected by BFD remained higher than the Taiwan (EPA) water quality standard. Although clean tap water is available in that area, removal of arsenic from the groundwater is of great importance to expand possible utilisation. Methodology: Removal of arsenic from two old endemic BFD groundwaters with activated carbon (AC) electrodes recycled from agricultural wastes by electrosorption using capacitive deionisation (CDI) processes was studied. A better understanding of arsenic electrochemistry involved in electrosorption was investigated by in situ X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy. Results: Arsenic removal efficiencies (61-93%) remained high across concentrations (5 and 196 mg/L). A high oxidation rate constant (0.93 h-1) for As(III)0 to As(V)- was found, allowing the electrosorption of As(V)- onto the meso- and micro-pores of the AC CDI electrodes with rate constants of 0.021 and 0.0013 h-1, respectively. Removal of arsenic from contaminated groundwater for drinking water was achieved with six CDI reactors in series. Moreover, in the presence of other ions (such as Na+, Mg2+ and Ca2+), 60-73% of As(III)0 and As(V)- ions were removed from the groundwaters by electrosorption. Discussion: We have developed an engineering-feasible method for converting As(III)0 to less toxic As(V)-, enabling its removal by electrosorption, which demonstrates the feasibility for green remediation of BFD waters as well as other arsenic-contaminated groundwaters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-143
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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