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World water workshop

James Rice, senior at Michigan State University and president of the MSU Engineers without Borders chapter, works on a cement cover. Photos by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
October 09, 2013 - Engineers from around the world came to Clarkston to learn the latest in water sanitation, Sept. 27 at Colombiere Center.

"There are people attending from Lebanon, Tanzania, Engineers without Borders, Rotary International in Evanston, Illinois, as well as people from around Michigan and other states," said Eileen Heasley, who founded the nonprofit group of A Vision of Clean Water with her husband, John Heasley.

They organized the Water and Sanitation workshop with Clarkston Rotarians. The 24 participants learned about water pumps, rain water harvesting, biosand and other types of filters, disease prevention, agricultural chemicals, landfills, and other sources of contamination, and other sanitation issues.

"It's going really good, very motivational," said instructor Emilie SanMartin, international technical advisor for the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology of Canada. "This is a really interesting group."

Hands-on work included building concrete covers for pit toilets. They made two types: flat, for when rebar reinforcement is available, and domed when it's not.

"Sanitation is a big problem," said Lina Shehayeb, Rotary president in Aley, Lebanon. "There are 850 million people around the world who have problems related to diseases 3.5 million die because of poor sanitation every year."

Juliana Msaghaa, district water engineer with the Ministry of Water, Morogoro, Tanzania, attended to share her experiences and learn from others.

"This is relevant to communities in Africa," Msaghaa said.

The culture calls for toilets to be kept outside the home. The cement covers keep them sanitary, she said.

"This is better," she said.

"The main thing is to cover the hole," said Omar Keith Helferich, professor of supply chain and humanitatian management at Central Michigan University. "The slab is secure and covers the hole, than you can put up walls and a roof."

Helferich will take a group of CMU students to Dominican Republic in May to work on community health, nutrition, and entrepreneurship projects.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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