Chapel Hill startup aiding in typhoon relief with water testing - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

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Chapel Hill startup aiding in typhoon relief with water testing device

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Aquagenx co-founder Mark Sobsey demonstrates how the Compartment Bag Test works. Aquagenx co-founder Mark Sobsey demonstrates how the Compartment Bag Test works.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -

International aid continues to pour into the Philippines to help survivors of a devastating typhoon. The storm killed more than 5,200 people and injured more than 25,000 others.

The United States, Japan, and China are all stepping up relief efforts and are working with the Philippine Navy to get resources to remote parts of the country.

One of the most critical concerns in the Philippines is finding drinkable water. But Chapel Hill startup Aquagenx is helping to locate water the is safe for consumption.

Aquagenx co-founder Mark Sobsey said his initial idea for the Compartment Bag Test was so simple that he was shocked it hadn't already been invented.

The CBT is a plastic back with five compartments that allows anyone to easily determine if drinking water contains E. coli bacteria and poses a health risk. This is especially important after disasters when there is a need to test for the bacteria as well as fecal contamination.

"So we can bring water quality testing in areas where it's most needed," the UNC professor explained.

At the request of the Philippine government, more than 100 CBTs will be shipped out to make sure the water is still drinkable following Typhoon Haiyan.

"In any disaster situation, this kind of testing to identify safe water and distinguish between unsafe water is vitally important," Sobsey said.

To test water quality, the disaster responders pour the sample into a bottle, and then drop in a chromogenic culture medium, which will test the water.

The liquid is then poured into the CBT, and if any of the water turns blue, then E. coli is present in the sample. Which of the five compartments that turns blue determine the Water Quality Rating.

Results can take up to 48 hours.

"You don't need a lab, you don't need equipment, you don't need electricity, you don't need an incubator," Sobsey said. "It's all done in the field."

While the CBT can help disaster area, it is also beneficial for any developing country where there may not be power or equipment.

Melanie Sanders

Melanie anchors the 6 PM news. Her "What's Next" series features an engaging approach to storytelling and highlights the leaders in innovation who are shaping our future. Check it out HERE! More>>

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