Technology Changes Everything

Portable disinfection systems provide earthquake-ravaged Haiti with clean drinking water A country in crisis finally has some good news .

Haiti continues to recover from the 2010 earthquake, with hundreds of thousands of Haitians still homeless and roads, telephone networks, health care facilities, factories, schools and other infrastructure still in shambles. The good news: Many parts of the country are now receiving disinfected water for the first time in months.

Since last October, more than 4,500 people have died of cholera and another 300,000 people have been sickened. The outbreak is thought to have been caused by fecal contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the Artibonite River. The Artibonite is the longest river in Haiti and is a vital source of drinking and irrigation water for those living along the river's banks.

Several humanitarian organizations have been working to provide safe, disinfected water for drinking and sanitation purposes for individuals, as well as hospitals, orphanages and other institutions throughout the country. Organizations involved include Operation Blessing International, which provides strategic disaster relief, medical aid, hunger relief, clean water and community development around the world; Deep Springs International, which seeks to alleviate poverty, illness and unemployment through integrated and sustainable safe water programs; and St. Damien Hospital, a free pediatric hospital in Haiti. Despite their efforts, water treatment technologies were still needed.

Meeting Water Needs

Severn Trent Services donated 11 portable electrolytic water disinfection systems and accompanying chlorine analyzers to these humanitarian agencies. The donation also included the onsite engineering expertise to set up the equipment and start operation. Ten portable SANILEC onsite sodium hypochlorite generators and one ClorTec sodium hypochlorite generator convert saltwater and energy into liquid sodium hypochlorite, a chlorine equivalent, to meet disinfection needs. The combined units are capable of disinfecting up to 13 million gal of drinking water per day.

The equipment donated to the hospital has been used to fulfill a variety of disinfection needs: general disinfection of surfaces, including bed, laundry, examining tables, counters and even sponge floor mats meant to disinfect those who might be carrying cholera; water for washing hands and for drinking; and the disinfection of wastewater. The clean drinking water may also be used to benefit St. Damien's supporting programs, including 24 primary schools and two orphanages in Haiti.

Disinfection at Home

The equipment donated by Severn Trent was part of a grassroots campaign to enable ordinary citizens to treat drinking water at the point of use. The portable disinfection units are easy to use, so ordinary citizens without technical skills can disinfect water using just salt, water and energy. The units are ideal for use in isolated locations where water purification, waste treatment or surface disinfection is required.

The SANILEC and ClorTec systems are ideal for providing potable water to residents scattered in villages throughout the region. Deep Springs International's household treatment program provides residents with 5-gal buckets with a spigot on the bottom for gathering water and an 8-oz bottle of the sodium hypochlorite solution. One capful of the solution is required to disinfect 5 gal of water.

Sustainable Success

The ability to produce disinfected water from existing water sources is critical to the success of the efforts of organizations like Deep Springs International. "Our organization serves more than 38,000 families in Haiti through our household water treatment programs. Severn Trent Services' donation of water disinfection equipment will improve our capacity to serve each of these families in an ongoing, sustainable way," said Michael Ritter, Deep Spring International co-founder and CEO.

"This unit is capable of producing enough chlorine in one day to disinfect 4 million gal of water,” said Bill Horan, president of Operation Blessing International, as he stood next to a ClorTec system in Haiti. “This is an example of how technology can change everything."

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