Engineers Without Borders: bringing clean water to Haiti

Engineers Without Borders: Bringing Clean Water to Haiti

Posted on 02 March 2010.


Last May, 22-year-old Paul Rodriguez went to a Caribbean country where, instead of soaking in the sun, he spent his week installing 23 water filters in different homes in Milot, a northern town in Haiti. Now he plans to recruit fellow NJIT students in an effort to help the town’s hospital facilities which has recently vowed to treat all earthquake patients and their families

Paul Rodriguez, president of Engineers without Borders at NJIT, made his pitch last week before 60 students in a classroom in Colton hall. Students listened with rapt attention as Rodriguez recounted his last summer’s trip to Haiti.
“Our first project was the bio-sand filter project” explained Rodriguez, “now that we have almost completed that project, we are starting new ones in Milot”

Engineers without Borders is a non-profit organization with over 250 chapters that aims to address the problems people face in financially unstable countries by using student skills in hopes of improving the lives of others through sustainable engineering solutions.

“Seventy five percent of the Haitian population does not have running water and must get water from unsanitary locations. Poor quality drinking water is responsible for many avoidable cases of water borne illnesses ranging from upset stomachs, diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, and typhoid. We believe we can lessen the impact of medical problems associated with waterborne diseases,” said Rodriguez.

For three years, engineers from NJIT have embarked in projects to solve this problem in Haiti. Thus far, they have constructed and installed 23 family-scale bio-sand filters in homes, schools and churches throughout Milot, Haiti, and trained and educated a team of local residents in bio-sand filter production in hopes of stimulating a locally driven expansion of the project.

“A bio-sand filter strips the contaminated water from pathogens which are consumed by microorganisms in the bio-layer. Contaminants are removed through the sand layer as they get trapped and attached to grains of sand and sediments. Remaining pathogens simply die from lack of oxygen at deeper sand and gravel layers. Finally, clear drinkable water flows out into a clean container,” explained Rodriguez.

About 250 locals have benefitted from this project by providing them with a source of clean water. Since the installation in May, Rodriguez was able to contact a family that has had a bio-sand filter in their home for seven months.

“We inspected the filter, which was working as it should, and the mother told us that her kids have been noticeably healthier and have not had to go back to the hospital for water-related illness. This was marvelous news to us,” rejoiced Rodriguez.

A follow-up trip was intended for this month, but was postponed until Spring because of the earthquake. Although Milot was not affected by the earthquake, the filters will be inspected and tested. After their departure, the local water committee will then take charge of the project and continue producing and installing filters throughout the community.

“Our next step will then be to provide the town with sustainable sanitation solutions. This will be our next official project, which we are starting this semester. Since we will continue to work with the community, we will be returning several more times to check up on the bio-sand filter project,” said Rodriguez………..

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