Contaminated Water and 3 Methods to Purify It

trash in water

Contaminated Water and 3 Methods to Purify It

Contaminated water usually happens in the body of water in the industrial area. The surface water is unsafe to be used directly without any processing. What are the characteristics of a contaminated water? Water from a contaminated source should be process to filter out the contaminants present. There are many methods to process water that is contaminated by certain chemicals or microorganisms, but the most effective and simple is through filtration.


Water contamination happens when there are chemicals and/or pathogen microorganisms present in the body of water. These substances are not harmful if it still meets the standards for clean water parameters. When the level of those chemicals and microorganisms are high, then it is considered as toxic, which can be damaging to the environment and for the people who use it.

The high concentration of those chemical substances and microorganisms that cause water contamination can be found anywhere, at any body of water –a stream, river, lake, even the ocean. People who live in an industrial, however, have higher risk to have contaminated water, due to the wastewater from those industrial activities.

There are many negative effects caused by contaminated water. Clean water and drinking water that is contaminated can lead into several diseases. Those diseases usually affect the digestive system, like diarrhea and cholera. Read more about three most-common water-borne diseases here.


What are the chemicals and microorganisms that often cause water contamination?

The chemical substances include iron, magnesium, nitrite, and chlorin. High concentration of iron can cause the water has yellow-ish color and tastes bad; high concentration of magnesium can cause mineral build-up –even blockage—in water pipes; meanwhile high concentration of chlorin can cause a bad smell of water. Not only those chemicals affect the physical characteristics of water, they also can generate a certain skin reaction, for example, itchiness on the skin. Even worse, when a body of water contains heavy metal, it leads to fatal skin conditions, even cancer.

contaminated water
Contaminated water (Source: NRDC)

Microorganisms can also be the source of water contamination. A body of water that has contacted with biological waste has high potential containing pathogens like bacteria, virus, fungi, and so on. When a body of water is biologically contaminated, the water –which should be clear—has the cloudy visual or maybe has a certain disturbing smell. Biologically-contaminated water, as mentioned, causes many water-borne diseases.


Water filtration is one of the simplest ways to process contaminated water. Filtration in general is a separation method based on the size of particles that are separated. There are many types of water filtration, a few of them are mentioned below.

Sediment Filtration

This method is usually used as a “prefilter” for further purification using other material, such as reverse osmosis filtration or activated carbon filtration. The reason is because sediment filtration is used to filter larger particles (more than 5 microns). Whereas the smaller particles like chemical substances and microorganisms still present in the water.

Reverse Osmosis Filtration

This method is used to separate inorganic matters present in water, which utilizes a medium called semipermeable membrane (or RO membrane). It is considered as the most effective method to remove impurities from water. Its pore size is 0.0005 microns, which make it capable to remove up to 99% of contaminants in water including dissolved solids, iron, calcium, lead, cysts, mercury, bacteria, and more contaminants. This type of filtration can be used for wastewater treatment, so the water could meet the parameters even to purify drinking water.

Activated Carbon

There are two options using activated carbon as water filter. The first one is Activated Carbon Block (ACB), which effective to remove chlorine smell, taste and color, along with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that is usually harder to remove.

The second one is Granular Activated Carbon (GAC), that has similar function as activated carbon block. The difference is their forms. When activated carbon block has a solid form, granular activated carbon has the form of loose powder. If I were to choose between the two activated carbon option, I would choose ACB because it has stronger adsorption capability.

As time goes on and science keeps developing, there are many more water purification methods that can be used to maintain and enhance water quality, whether it’s clean water which come from water surfaces, or even drinking water.

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