Biological Sand Filter Performance Test Using Multiple Methods for Pathogen Detection: a Longitudinal Field Study in Kenya

  • Laura LackeyEmail author
  • Kyla Semmendinger
  • Michael MacCarthy


Fifty biological sand filters (BSFs) housed in 70-L plastic containers were built and installed in the West Pokot County of Kenya. Half of the BSFs were installed in June 2010; the remainder were installed in June 2012. BSF performance was analyzed during June 2012 and 2015. Performance indicators included the removal of turbidity and fecal and total coliforms. In 2012, 17 of the original 25 BSFs installed were operational, and their performance was evaluated. In 2015, 15 of the BSFs were operational. BSF performance during 2015 showed an average fecal coliform removal of 98.9%. The most common reasons provided to explain why the BSF installed was no longer in use included the family moved and the BSF was too heavy to carry, and the effluent pipe broke. Relative affluence was observed using the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI)™. With an increase in elevation, we noted a decrease in PPI. The average PPI for homesteads with operation BSFs was 10 points higher than homes where the BSFs were in disrepair. An assay to estimate Escherichia coli presence and concentration was modified, and the results were compared with more traditional field enumeration methods. The field assay used a five-compartment bag to quantify the most probable number (MPN) of E. coli to provide a low-tech option to field workers in developing country to test the viability of drinking water sources. We used a Hach medium, varying from that prescribed by Aquagenx. Results from using the modified method compared well with the more traditional field assay.


Biological sand filters Pathogen indicator Sustainability Point-of-use water treatment 



Mercer On Mission (MOM) offers undergraduate students a unique opportunity to translate classroom learning to the field ( A typical MOM requires 2 weeks of intensive classwork on campus that is followed by 3 weeks in the field. Mercer University undergraduate students participating in MOM played a significant role in BSF implementation, water sampling, and analysis. We are indebted to our partner and in-country host, Rev. Sam Harrell of Africa Exchange (

Funding Information

A Mercer University Quality Enhancement Plan (Research that Reaches Out) grant helped fund this work.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mercer University School of EngineeringMaconUSA

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