Monday, February 6, 2012

Decentralized Water and Waste- Honduras

These are a group of children from the community of Siete. Their family's homes were destroyed by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. There were about 400 disparate people/families from numerous locations that were "squatting" on this high ground when I visited there in December 2008. These are very poor people living on dirt floors with very poor sanitary conditions. Regardless, I was struck by their beauty, attitude, love and strong family bonds (picture below by Shin Fujiyama).
We were invited to Honduras to assist Students Helping Honduras. Mike Craun and I provided the expertise to assess the topography, drainage patterns, soils, and groundwater to design a decentralized water and waste water system(s) for a new community to provide homes for approximately 200 people.

When we were asked to assess the property, the project was in full swing. Nearly one-half of the buildings had been erected and plans included a huge soccer field, orphanage and school.
However, there had not been a survey, topography had not been "shot" and the "experts" here in the states didn't know the direction in which the land drained, nor did they know if a stream was present on the property. Still, the occupants desired in-door plumbing and there was no - nada- none-zero idea(s)of how to deal with the waste disposal for a community of 200 occupants.

Our team included Mike Craun, an experienced civil engineer with a strong background in public health and sanitary solutions, me- a geologist with experience in groundwater, public health and decentralized waste disposal and Antonio Martinez (background), an architect with loads of experience working with communities in central America. Antonio also acted as intrepreter.

One of the first tasks was to conduct a draw-down test on the
community well. In the picture on the right are members of the community getting ready to collect water samples for laboratory analysis. The well was pumped at a rate of 60 gallons per minute for an extended period of time and only experienced about 7 feet of total drawdown.

We then began to conduct a sanitary survey of the property and neighboring environs. In the upgradient position we found a village of 80 homes with living conditions that would offend even my own 1970's "back to the land" lifestyle. Waste water from the homes would simply be dumped in a drain and allowed to flow into the "street" and human waste was disposed of into a pit privy. Each home possessed a pit privy.
Down gradient were several springs. One is pictured here where women would come to wash clothes and collect water for drinking.

In the end a sewer system was designed that treated the waste to a high degree prior to discharge, a plumbing system was installed for both drinking water and toilets. The occupants built every last bit of it themselves and took control of every aspect of construction and organization.

Weekly community meetings were held reviewing accomplishments and what steps needed to be taken next. A great experience with some very loving, hard-working and community oriented people.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, It really is incredibly fantastic and informative website. Good to discover your site Very well article! I’m simply in love with it. Perth Reticulation provides you the best Reticulation and retic repair and installation services. Call at 0411 554 432 and our experts will do the rest.
    Irrigation systems Perth