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The Solution to Unclean Water: Educating the Community

Professor Bellamy posts a follow-up to his first blog post:  Encountering a Problem: How to Treat Unclean Water in Haiti?

After years of failure (and learning), it became clear that the best way to provide treated water in Haiti and other developing countries is to model what has been successful. Haiti needs locally-trained water treatment experts who can make a difference.  While reverse osmosis, worked well for others, it was not the right solution for Poverty Resolutions. Instead, they decided to educate the community on proper water treatment techniques.

The water-treatment building Poverty Resolutions helped develop will be a laboratory for the high school. The _DSC6143.jpgstudents will learn details of water treatment, how to run a water-selling business, and how to test water to ensure that it is being treated correctly. The skills they learn will be transferrable to other jobs and to home life, as they will be able to make sure their family’s drinking water is safe.

The main technology that the students will learn involves mixing salt and water, passing it over electrodes, and making bleach. We built a facility that will allow us to treat water in Williamson with this bleach. The quality of the water will rival or even surpass the quality of water that most drink here in America.

Encountering a Problem: How to Treat Unclean Water in Haiti?

Michael Bellamy, Chemistry Professor at Northwest Missouri State University, shares his thoughts about a problem he encountered while visiting Haiti in this blog post. 

It is estimated that about 780 million people in the world are unable to access clean water. Untreated water is the source of a constant battle against diarrhea as well as other water-borne illnesses. In fact, about 80% of hospitalizations in developing countries are due to drinking untreated water. In Haiti, one of the most pressing problems is a lack of access to clean water.

As a chemistry professor, I am interested in ways to treat water. Similarly, as a Christian, I feel obligated to be part of the solution for the people of Haiti. Ultimately, my dream is that the work that we are doing in Haiti will be so successful that it will be replicated in other countries.    

Over the last few years, I have studied many of the ways to treat water in developing countries. At one point, a few students and I built a solar-powered water pasteurizer and tested it in Haiti. It turned out that the technology worked very well to kill water-borne microorganisms. However, there were cultural aspects that we did not consider. We had unwittingly taken what some in Haiti call “Jesus Junk” or “JJ” to Haiti. “Jesus Junk” means that the motives were inspired by Jesus, or good, but the technology, or junk, did not fit the culture

Like my students and I, many others have failed at implementing successful water treatment solutions. Pierre in Montrouis, a Haitian businessman, is one of these people. In Haiti, many businesses that sell water treat the water by reverse osmosis, which gives the water a distinct taste. This taste is what many people have come to trust about the water. Unfortunately, Pierre did not treat his water this way and the Haitians did not trust it. In the end, people refused to buy his water and his business ultimately failed. Thus, there lied the problem: how to treat unclean water in Haiti?