Saturday, July 7, 2012

One great leap in life...

Ok. Quick update from the events of the past 4 months.  I quit my job in Minnesota, moved to South Dakota to follow a pretty girl and started a new position with a small company called Northwater.  We are only 3, Jeff in Springfield, IL; James in Chicago, IL and me in Rapid City, SD.  This has been my dream since I left East Timor 6 years ago.  I am once again full time in the business of international water and sanitation, wohoo!  I've set up a small office for myself in Rapid City and outfitted it with all the tools I need to design and manage water projects from the States with occasional trips to the field.

So last Friday I received notice to design a water system for Hinche, Haiti and book a plane ticket ASAP.  I spent 4 of the next 5 days with my head buried in my computer and emerged on Wednesday with a pretty cool plan for the entire city of Hinche, population 35,000.  It felt great to have whole days to work on a dream project.  I put together an AutoCAD map of the water system.  I modeled the flows and pressures within the system with EPANET and also put together a project manual that spells out the type of pipe and construction techniques.

We've learned a lot about construction in Haiti with our past projects in Pignon and Saint Raphael.  I also pulled in a few tricks I picked up along the way working on a project in Honduras.  All this experience has culminated in this Hinche project.  I was able to create an image of my AutoCAD drawing, import it into EPANET and draw the system to the proper size and scale.  This little trick saves me about 2 days of manual data entry and results in a much cleaner product.  We've also learned to bury water pipes at least 4 feet deep to prevent sabotage by unruly residents and damage by road construction. 

We were, I believe one of the first to introduce pressure testing to check for leaks in newly constructed pipes in Haiti.  We have been doing it with an air compressor but we are going to try and make the leap to pressure testing with water and up the pressure to 100 psi.  I just mentioned this to my student, Raynold and he's not too sure about 100 psi pressure.  He has seen the effects of pipe blowing apart at 50 psi but I've assured him that concrete thrust blocking will do the trick at these higher pressures.  He will also need to be very selective about who he allows to glue the pipe if the pressure test is going to meet this new standard.

I spent the day teaching Gidel how to survey with a dumpy level.  The Pignon water system, my first big project in Haiti, is nearly completed.  They only have to lay pipe in 2 streets and then the distribution grid will be complete.  The next challenge in Pignon will be to develop the water supply.  Our survey today will provide me what I need to put together a few options.  I'm going to propose developing both a spring and another well to supply the system.  We'll see if we can get a pressure sand filter to work in the supply line from the springs as we know that water is contaminated by nearby latrines.

Then just before dark tonight Raynold came flying through town on a 4-wheeler fresh off exams at his weekend engineering college courses in Cap Haitian, picked me up and drove to Hinche.  It was a whirlwind 45 minutes on one of the worst roads in Haiti.  We crossed 3 rivers on the way and got lucky they were much lower than a few days ago.  Tomorrow morning we'll head out the door at 5 AM to survey from the spring down to the reservoir above town.  Monday is another day of surveying and Tuesday we'll have a meeting with government and city officials and the road contractor to discuss the project.

My two students, Raynold and Gidel are hot on the  trail of starting families of their own.  Here's Raynold with his girl, Lovelie. 

Then another with Gidel with his wife Wodeline and their 4 month old son, look at all that hair!!
Cheers for now.  I'll try to write more in a day or two.

1 comment:

  1. Dave,

    I can hear the excitement in your writing, I know you are at your best when you are on the ground doing the leg work. Keep up the good work and God be with you.