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Press Release  
Release Date: Thursday, October 3, 2013 1:47 PM
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact:
Sholnn Freeman
Communications Specialist
202.238.2394
sholnn.freeman@howard.edu
     
http://www.howard.edu/newsroom/      
HU-Engineers Without Borders Completes Multi-year Kenya Clean-Water Project
Tests of Previously Installed Filters Show Dramatic Water Quality Gains
 

WASHINGTON (Aug. 7, 2013) – The Howard University chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-HU) returned to remote, northwestern Kenya in May to monitor water quality and install bio-sand filters, the latest stage of a multi-year effort to significantly improve water quality for poor rural families in the region.

“With the five-year commitment now nearing a close, the Howard chapter of Engineers Without Borders has set the foundation of what promises to be the start of a brighter future for Choimim and surrounding villages,” said John Tharakan, Ph.D., Howard University professor of chemical engineering. Tharakan serves as faculty advisor to the EWB-HU student chapter and as faculty advisor on the project.

The Choimim “Water is Life” Project began in 2009. A Howard team traveled to the remote village of Choimim in the Nandi Hills region of Kenya to make assessments of water storage and treatment problems. The community is comprised mostly of tea and cattle farmers and has no running water and very few homes with electricity. Rainwater and water from the shallow wells mostly goes unfiltered, leading to water-borne diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

A total of 27 students have participated in the project over the course of two assessment visits and two implementation visits in March 2009, December 2010, May 2012 and May 2013.

Howard students last year helped expand a rainwater harvesting (RWH) system and installed six bio-sand filters. They also installed a 10,000-liter RWH tank which stores thousands of gallons of harvested water for the community. While the concrete-based bio-sand filters cost just $45, they are out of the reach of most villagers in Choimim.


During the recent implementation visit from May 13 to May 26, the Howard team installed 11 additional bio-sand filters in the houses of community members who had contributed 200 Kenya shillings (about $US 3.00) towards the cost of the filter.  Recipients included individuals who were teachers at the village school, a former village chief as well as others who had committed to investing their hard-earned and very limited funds in the water filtration systems.

Installation of the heavy filter shells and sand components proved to be extremely strenuous due to the difficult terrain. Under the guidance of local advisor Isaac Soita, manager of Running Water International Organization, the Howard team educated recipients on filter assembly, operation and maintenance, and created a cadre of “community engineers” who will maintain and monitor the installed filters and help spread the word about clean water in the community and surrounding villages.

The team from Howard also tested samples of the outlet water from filters installed in the first implementation visit in May 2012. The results showed that the filters were eradicating almost 100 percent of the E.coli and fecal coliform pathogens that were present in all the source waters that the community members were drawing from. Furthermore, a bio-sand filter installed during the May 2012 implementation visit at an orphanage in the community demonstrated no bacterial contamination. The Howard team was proud to learn from the orphanage manager that no cases of water-borne illnesses were seen in any of the children at the orphanage since the bio-sand filter’s installation.

Given the success of the filter systems, there were more families that wanted filters than the Howard Engineers Without Borders team was able to raise funding for. More than 30 families in the village indicated they wanted filters. The team and its partners on the project have thus committed to raising the additional funds needed to pay for the additional filters and work with the local partner, Running Water International, to get community members filters. Tharakan said the EWB-HU students have developed plans to raise the $1,135 needed to construct the remaining filters and transmit the funds to RWI to support their construction and implementation.


ABOUT HOWARD

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, two Truman Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, 30 Fulbright Scholars and 11 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University's Web site at www.howard.edu.


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