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Faculty & Staff Honors

UNC Professor’s Compartment Bag Tests Used for Water Quality Monitoring in Rural Myanmar

The Aquagenx water quality test kit, developed by a researcher at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, allows users to conduct on-site E. coli testing without access to electricity.

Dr. Mark Sobsey, Kenan Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering in the Gillings School, designed the Aquagenx Compartment Bag Test (CBT) specifically for use in low-resource, rural and disaster/emergency settings.

[Photo: Dr. Mark Sobsey is pictured with the compartment bag test, which he and colleagues designed to identify E. Coli in drinking water.]

Now, Aguaconsult, a consulting company based in the United Kingdom, is using the bags as part of an assessment of the Accelerating Water and Sanitation for All program in Myanmar. The program was funded by the Department for International Development in the United Kingdom and implemented by UNICEF in collaboration with the government of Myanmar.

A major challenge for Aguaconsult in the Myanmar program was that water quality testing for E. coli bacteria needed to be carried out in remote villages with little or no access to electricity and with very limited capacity for traditional membrane filtration water quality tests.

To work around these restrictions, Aguaconsult deployed the CBT for onsite water-quality testing. They worked with a local data collection firm, Myanmar Survey Research, to collect and analyze water samples.

After collecting 100 mL water samples at the source, from community storage tanks and in a small number of households, the company combined the CBT findings with the results of sanitary inspection surveys to create an inexpensive snapshot of overall drinking water quality in program areas and to classify the extent of health risks in each community.

The results highlighted areas that need to be targeted for additional interventions to improve water quality and/or safe water handling storage practices at the household level.

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