In February 2013, a group of from the W&L EWB club travelled to San Pedro, Guatemala in order to assess water access and quality, especially pertaining to the health of community members. The team discovered that many citizens were consuming contaminated water. Despite the fact that many houses utilized filters (porous ceramic), our field tests revealed the presence of bacteria, including E.Coli. even after filtration via Eco Filtros. Perhaps the most concerning was the contamination of the water at the children’s school and health clinic in the area.
We were also able to meet with the City Council of San Pedro to discuss their concerns regarding water supply and quality in the area. The community is interested in implementing a form of water purification to improve conditions in the area, but common practices in water purification have been met with great hesitation. Of note, the community members reject the use of chlorine-treatment in their water because they are wary of the taste of chemicals. Due to this, EWB is looking towards various projects such as biosand filtration and UV purification systems as efficient alternatives to chemical treatment.
With our sights set on a large-scale project, we suggested an initial project of constructing several a biosand filters at the schools, clinics, and churches to be able to quickly improve the quality of water in the area. Our affiliated partners were enthusiastic about the project, so W&L EWB began planning to take the 2013-2014 school year to prepare our students to return to Guatemala in order to implement these projects.
In April of 2014, we will be building biosand filters at schools in partnership with Pueblo a Pueblo, a NGO in the region. Water sanitation is critical, especially for children. Not only are 70-80% of all illness in developing countries traced back to waterborne illness and sanitation, but children are even more severely affected with over 3,000,000 children dying annually from waterborne illnesses, especially diarrheal and dehydration issues.
Starting in October, we built the test filter pictured above. Our training and testing exercises will prepare students to build working filters, while also demonstrating new modifications to biosand filter design such as iron amendments for enhanced virus removal.