A study of the parameters affecting the effectiveness of Moringa oleifera in drinking water purification
The powder obtained from the seeds of the Moringa oleifera tree has been shown to be an effective primary coagulant for water treatment. When the seeds are dried, dehusked, crushed and added to water, the powder acts as a coagulant binding colloidal particles and bacteria to form agglomerated particles (flocs), which settle allowing the clarified supernatant to be poured off. Very little research has been undertaken on the parameters affecting the effectiveness of M. oleifera, especially in Malawi, for purification of drinking water and there is a great need for further testing in this area. Conclusive data needs to be compiled to demonstrate the effects of various water parameters have on the efficiency of the seeds. A parametric study was undertaken at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK, with the aim to establish the most appropriate dosing method; the optimum dosage for removal of turbidity; the influence of pH and temperature; together with the shelf life of the M. oleifera seeds. The study revealed that the most suitable dosing method was to mix the powder into a concentrated paste, hence forming a stock suspension. The optimum M. oleifera dose, for turbidity values between 40 and 200 NTU, ranged between 30 and 55 mg/l. With turbidity set at 130 NTU and a M. oleifera dose within the optimum range at 50 mg/l, pH levels were varied between 4 and 9. It was discovered that the coagulant performance was not too sensitive to pH fluctuations when conditions were within the optimum range. The most efficient coagulation, determined by the greatest reduction in turbidity, occurred at pH 6.5. Alkaline conditions were overall more favourable than acidic conditions; pH 9 had an efficiency of 65% of optimum, whilst at pH 5 the efficiency dropped to around 55%. The efficiency further dropped at pH 4, where the powder only produced results of around 10% of optimum conditions. A temperature range of 4-60 °C was studied in this research. Colder waters (<15 °C) were found to hinder the effectiveness of the coagulation process. The higher the temperature the more effective was the coagulation. It was also found that the age of the seeds, up to 18 months, did not have any noticeable effect on dose level and percentage reduction in turbidity, although at 18 months the seeds had a narrower dosing range to produce near-optimum reduction. Seeds aged 24 months showed a significant decline in coagulant efficiency.