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By Mandy Clark
Aberdeen, Scotland
03 December 2008

Scotch whiskey is said, by some, to have many magical qualities. Now, scientists in Scotland have discovered one more: it can be a weapon against polluted waste sites. A by-product of the spirit is 99.96 percent effective in cleaning contaminated ground water and scientists in Scotland are hoping to export their special clean whiskey to the world.  VOA's Mandy Clark reports from Aberdeen.

Scotchmen stand as they wear traditional dress behind the first bottles in the world of Scotch Whisky Royal Salute 38 Years Old (File)
Scotchmen stand as they wear traditional dress behind the first bottles in the world of Scotch Whiskey Royal Salute 38 Years Old (File)
A wee dram of whiskey - it is Scotland's national drink and locals say it cures the common cold. 

But there is another Scottish DRAM that has even greater health implications. It is a water-cleaning technology invented by scientists at Aberdeen University.

This DRAM is derived from a scotch by-product and it can cure contaminated groundwater. Its clever name, DRAM, stands for Device for the Remediation and Attenuation of Multiple pollutants.  

Soil toxicologist Graeme Paton says it can take chemically polluted water and make it clean.
 
"We are making something that fish can survive in, that plants, that can be used for washing and irrigation, that is the objective of this project," said Paton.

DRAM is far quicker and more cost effective than current clean-up techniques. It can remove multiple pollutants simultaneously, such as pesticides or heavy metals, making once-tainted water safe enough to go back into the environment.

The scientists have conducted field tests around Britain, from toxic sites to water treatment facilities. The university research team considers the trials so successful it is keeping the by-product secret and Graeme Paton says they are contemplating setting up a company to exploit the commercial potential to a global market.
 
"Part of our ambition is not just to deal with the West and developed world, but also other very under developed countries, like Pakistan and Bangladesh and West Africa, where much of our tanneries are carried out to produce our leather and the by-product that produces is horrifically toxic to local areas," added Paton. "We can actually deploy this as a very sustainable option to help those people as well. Water, clean water is the right of every human being that we should expect in the Western world."
 
The inventors say it is also an environmentally friendly solution. Unlike current methods, DRAM does not use potent chemicals to clean the water - the pollutants simply get trapped in the organic DRAM material.  

Leigh Cassidy came up the idea of using the whiskey by-product as a groundwater cleaner. She credits her profound knowledge of Scotch.

"I started doing a check list of the ideal properties, and as I ticked off the list I thought, 'Ohhh, I know what has got that in it," said Cassidy.

Paton and Cassidy say they are thrilled with their scientific discovery of an environmentally friendly water-cleaning solution. Well, it is certainly a idea worth toasting.

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