Earlier this year, a team of Rowan University engineering students recently traveled to La Ceiba, El Salvador to install biosand water filter systems. The filters are part of a pilot program that serves ten homes in the small village, with more to come in future visits. The students are members of Rowan University's chapter of Engineers without Borders (EWB), which has some 250 chapters in the U.S., including 180 chapters on university campuses.
Instituted in 2003, Rowan’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders have worked on a global range of projects, from The Gambia, El Salvador, Senegal, Thailand, Honduras, South Dakota and locally in Camden, New Jersey. The goal of the Engineers Without Borders team, guided by project leader and chapter president, Jessica Tryner, senior Mechanical engineer with a concentration in International Studies, was to begin to provide ten of the 150 homes in La Ceiba with purification systems for clean drinking water. Currently, the drinking water of La Ceiba is polluted with fecal coliform.
Water and Wastewater problems in El Salvador (Photo: Sam Leppanen)
Preparation for this undertaking began nearly four years ago with an initial assessment trip during spring of 2007. Two more assessment trips followed, during spring of 2008 and 2010.
A crucial aspect of the project, assessment trips allowed the EWB team members to assess the situation first hand and subsequently construct a solution that best fit. Groundwork for implementation of the biosand filters also included construction practice of lids, sieves, and diffuser plats as well as washing sand and gravel. All ten recipients of the biosand filters each received an educational information session as well as materials about their filter, proper uses and simple solutions if any filter problems arise.
The Engineers Without Borders team is scheduled to travel back to La Ceiba, hopefully during the summer, to assess the progress of the filters and repair any construction problems that may have resulted. Community members whose filters are not properly due to improper use, will be given additional education on proper use and maintenance.
EWB-USA currently has more than 350 active projects in 45 developing countries around the world including water, renewable energy, sanitation and construction projects, such as a bridge across a mountain river. Most projects involve water or wastewater treatment. These projects are completed in partnership with local communities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). All chapters work with communities for a minimum of five years.
Learn more about water and wastewater solutions. Check out how engineering firm Stantec, in partnership with Octaform built a bioreactor for a town in need of a wastewater solution: