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Meet the Team


NOTE: As of January 23, 2013, the Department of State has issued a travel warning for El Salvador. At this time, the team is unable to travel to countries with a travel warning. As a result, the Clean Water for La Ceiba project is currently on hold until further notice. You can find more information on the Department of State Travel Warning here.

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Clean Water for La Ceiba
All current sources of drinking water are contaminated with fecal coliform
Provide the people of La Ceiba with a year-round supply of clean drinking water


Where we are Now

To date, the La Ceiba team has traveled to El Salvador on eight different trips. The first three trips aimed to assess the area and to find a suitable solution to the communities needs. Using the knowledge gained from these trips, the team returned for three more trips in which they installed a total of 36 biosand filters throughout the community. Following these successful implementations, the team returned to La Ceiba for it's first monitoring trip, in which water quality testing was performed on every filter.

Most recently, the team returned for it's eight trip overall, and it's fourth implementation trip. Over the course of the 11 day visit, the team installed an additional 18 filters, bring the total filter count to 54.

Detailed Project Background

The Rowan University Engineers Without Borders chapter has been involved in the “Clean Water for La Ceiba” project since 2007; when Emily Reese, a Peace Corps volunteer, contacted them, concerned that La Ceiba’s water sources were contaminated. The chapter adopted the project, and traveled to La Ceiba in May 2007 to assess the area. During this trip, the team also conducted water quality tests on multiple water sources throughout the community, including hand-dug wells and the local river. The results from these tests found that all of the water sources were contaminated with fecal coli form. In addition to the water quality tests, the team surveyed many of the local residents, and found that many of them have been suffering from diarrhea, bloated stomachs, and infections. The community also reported that 34 children have died in El Salvador from 2002-2007. Comparing this to the typical infant mortality rate in El Salvador, a village of La Ceiba’s size would only expect 9 deaths. The large increase in mortality rate is likely due to the consumption of contaminated water by local children.

Over the course of three assessment trips, the La Ceiba Team, along with input from the villagers and local surveys, were able to rule out several potential solutions including the drilling of a well and rainwater collection. The team determined that the construction of household biosand filters were the best solution to provide the entire community with clean water. Not only would these filters be cost efficient to produce, but also all necessary construction items were available locally. The village was also excited about the filters, and was eager to get started.

The team traveled on their first implementation trip in January 2011. Over the course of the trip, the team installed a total of ten biosand filters, and provided personalized education to each recipient household. In addition to the installation of the filters, the team also held a class for three community representatives on health and sanitation as well as filter operation and maintenance.

The team returned in June 2011 to implement an additional ten filters, as well as monitor the condition of the previously installed filters. The team found that all of the filters were intact, in use, and operating properly. A successful implementation coupled with promising monitoring results paved the road for future implementation.

The third implementation trip was in January 2012, where the team implemented 16 additional filters. On this trip the project saw more community involvement in the construction of filters then ever before. The team also installed a trial filter in the local school, to determine whether the school could maintain the filter over weekends and holidays. When monitoring the previous filters, the team started to find fine cracks around the concrete of the filters. This concern led them to the local concrete vendor to find a way to alleviate this problem.

The team returned again in May 2012 to conduct its first monitoring trip. During the trip the team conducted water-quality tests on each filter and distributed health surveys to all recipient families. Despite the fine cracks appearing on most filters, the team found that all of the filters were still operating efficiently, and that they were all being used and maintained properly.

Clean Water for La Ceiba saw it's fourth implementation trip in January 2013. Over the course of the 11 day trip, the team successfully implemented 18 new filters, bringing the total filter count in the community to 54. This puts the project about a third of the way to it's goal of supplying a biosand filter to every household in La Ceiba. In addition to the new filter implementation, the team also conducted monitoring on 35 of the previously installed filter. One filter was found to be infested with insects after y. This filter box was thoroughly cleaned, and then reinstalled by the team with fresh sand and gravel.


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