2010 Beraca Implementation Trip

In 2010, the University of Missouri at Kansas City Chapter of Engineers Without Borders agreed to help the Kansas City Professional Chapter to investigate options for developing a water supply for a church and school that were being built by the Jean Luc Phanord Foundation (http://www.jeanlucphanordfoundation.org/7-2/) in an area that had long served as a trash dump and was referred to as Kilometer 6, on the west side of the port city of La Romana in the Dominican Republic. The area is home to about 6000 Haitian refugees and impoverished Dominicans who live in makeshift homes that are not served by a public water supply or sewer systems and typically do not have electricity.

The church was founded by Rev. Elza Phanord after the death of her husband, Jean Luc Phanord, in the early 1980s. The Foundation was purchasing water for 250 pesos per month from a private well owner up the hill from the site. EWB tested the water from the well and found it to be free of bacteria and pathogens. The well water was delivered to the site through a 1" plastic pipe that was laid on top of the ground and discharged to a concrete cistern near the center of the site. The cistern originally had a pump, to get the water out of the cistern, but it was no longer operational, so water was retrieved from the cistern using a bucket on a rope. Tests of the water in the cistern showed significant bacteria contamination, including e-coli which would make it potentially hazardous to drink. It is likely the contamination occurred from use of the dirty bucket. The group's first task was to develop a Master Plan for providing all utilities to the site. From this study, it was apparent that the existing private water supply could not be economically upgraded to meet the expanded needs of 200 students once the school opened.

All reasonable options for providing water were evaluated during this first trip, including upgrading the existing private well, developing a new surface water supply, purchasing bottled water, and development of an underground water source. However, only the development of an underground water supply appeared to be practical and to meet the needs of the church and school. Once the needs were defined in the Master Plan, EWB contacted the regional water authority, COAAROM, to learn their plans for providing service to the Kilometer 6 area. After several meetings with the authority, EWB reached an agreement in which COAAROM would drill a well and install a well pump and EWB would provide design services and construct an elevated water tank to store water and provide consistent pressure for the site. The agreement required COAAROM to maintain the pump and provide the Foundation with chlorine for disinfection free of charge and the Foundation agreed to provide the land and a maintenance person, as well as security for the system and to offer excess water to nearby residents who wanted to connect to the system.

A design was completed during the remainder of the school year with assistance from the Kansas City Professional Chapter and the team returned in May 2010 to construct the water tower. The traveling team in May included all of the members of the first trip plus Christine Moe, a structural engineer from Chicago and students Meagan Malloy, Levon Saiyan, and Elliot Goff. The group traveled in two teams to man the site over a two week period; the first team completed the excavation and foundation and the second worked on the superstructure and tank installation. Danny Perez was hired as the Construction Manager to assist the group and help acquire local labor and materials.

Despite some construction challenges and design modifications, the construction and installation of the tank tower and pump house was completed and arrangements made for Danny and COAAROM to install a new power supply for the pump. The pumps were placed in service by COAAROM, but have been plagued with problems ever since. In the meantime, the first floor of the school was opened under the name of Colegio Evangelico Joe Hartman and started serving 100 students with a staff of six teachers and an administrator. Electricity to the school is meager and inconsistent.

A restroom next to the guard house at the back of the site was connected to the water system by one of several volunteer groups that visit the site on work trips each year. An existing latrine was also upgraded with two flush toilets. All of the toilets discharge directly into a pit under the old latrine; which would be overwhelmed if it were not for the lack of water caused by the problems with the pump that was installed by COAAROM. Danny has worked with COAAROM but they have never able to establish a consistent water supply. One major problem that makes trouble shooting the pump very difficult is that power is cut to the site each day between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. in favor of serving commercial properties and industries who regularly pay their electric bills. Most residents in the Kilometer 6 area so not pay for electricity. It has been very difficult to get COAAROM technicians to the site at the same time that power is available to trouble shoot the pump problems. A local resident has set up a concession stand at the front gate to provide drinking water to students.

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Last modified on Saturday, 24 November 2012 22:01