Monday, August 23, 2010

Catch Up Session

It has been a busy week, hence why the updates have been non-existent. Everything is progressing remarkably well and despite a few set-backs, we will finish all that we set out to do this trip!

The first latrine should be complete any day now. Once the pit cover has been poured and we receive the source-separated seat by mail (at least I think that is how it is arriving) we can have our grand opening! The substructure for the second latrine is complete and so we will just cover up what we have completed and shall finish the project on our next visit.

In addition to latrine building, we have been doing water testing as Claire mentioned in the last post. Since the last post however, we also tested the coliform levels in the KVIP. Yes, the KVIP... meaning that we had to GATHER the poo before we tested it! Needless to say, we wore gloves and stayed as far away from the pit and the poo as we could manage but never again will I test poop (nor will Nnenna or Claire I am sure!). Maggoty poo is never a pleasant experience. However, it was important to test the feces from the KVIP to compare to the decomposed feces that we will eventually collect from our new latrine.

This weekend we took a quick trip to Accra for a night on the town. It was Clay's birthday and so we decided to celebrate in style with a hotel room (flush toilets and REAL SHOWERS!!!), a fancy dinner and brunch, and a night of dancing at a popular Accra "nite club." While the entire experience was fantastic, the beds were probably one of the best parts of the weekend! After sleeping on the floor for three weeks, a real bed is the ultimate luxury!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pleasant Surprises

The last week has been one with some pleasant surprises!  To start off, remember how it had been really hot and sunny the week before?  The past week has been rainy and cool.  Although it can make doing work a little difficult sometimes, twice it has rained hard enough that we leave our dishes under the overhang of the roof to soak and wash.  Less trips to the borehole!

Another water-related pleasant surprise is the result of some of our water tests.  We've tested for total coliforms from both boreholes in Obodan.  "Borehole 1" tested positive, but "Borehole 2" has tested negative - or very very low counts of coliform, which we certainly didn't expect. This is great news, because this borehole is the one that we are planning to have as the source of the distribution system.

I promised pictures last time, and the only pictures I have on my laptop are ones of the coliform tests... but the colors are pretty so here they are:

Borehole 1: the foam and gel at the surface of the water (which has turned orange/yellow) is a sign of coliform presence.

Borehole 2: no foam! no gel!

Of course this doesn't mean that there are no coliforms whatsoever coming from Borehole 2- in fact, there may be some but just as a lower concentration. This is still much better than we expected though.
Even the water they sell in plastic sachets tested positive for coliforms.

Update on latrine construction: we've put in the door (complete with spring-hinges so that it shuts on its own) and the roof- now what we have left is the floor slab inside, ventilation pipes, the slab to cover the back of the pit, stairs to the door and some holes in the wall (holes? I know there's actually a more accurate word than that..) for light. 

Time to go now. Hopefully a picture of construction will be up next time!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Progressing on construction and progressing on tanning

I don't know why I didn't notice last year, but these past few days I've been feeling the effects of being closer to the equator.  Even when the sun is only out for a little bit because the clouds come by quickly, that little bit of sunshine just feels so much more intense than what I've felt this past summer and we're all getting tanner by the minute. That we're outside.

Today we met with Mr. Brobbe and Kwabena, both engineers who are helping us out with the project.  We showed them to the latrine (which now has a roof!) and discussed potential methods of closing off the pit (concrete slab vs. metal door), the possibility of a rainwater harvesting system on the roof, an alternate design for the second latrine, and the decomposition of the waste.

Our designs have tweaked quite a bit compared to what we came to Ghana with, after talking with the villagers.  For example, the pit size is a little bigger and the pit access doors are positioned differently, but these changes were made to adapt to what they are familiar with and more comfortable with maintaining.  The design for the second latrine may also change from this first one, but construction for it will not be finished on this trip.  Instead, we'll finish the substructure since they have already started digging the pit, and continue with the superstructure on our next trip after we have gotten some test results from the first project- making sure that the source separation we designed is successful, and that the waste does compost like we hope it will. 

We also did some more water quality tests today- bacteria tests for both boreholes.  They need to be incubated, one for 24 hours and the other for 48 hours, so now we wait until then to see what's in the water. We went to get the water samples midday, and proceeded to brown in the sun, though we were not out for very long.

Right now, Suraj and Nnenna are purchasing materials to finish up the latrine.  Hopefully we'll get some pictures of it in soon!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Semi-mid-trip update and Team 2

Hey everybody, Team 2 (Clay, Nnenna, Lucy, Claire) just arrived yesterday, a week and half after the first team, so here's our semi-mid-trip update!

Construction of the latrine has been going very well- we're almost done with the first one, what we have left is mainly roofing, fitting the doors and finding the source-separation toilet seat to go in the latrine.  Seeing the structure standing, almost complete after months of discussing it and designing it was amazing! Though it was only a small concrete structure, it was somehow so... pretty. In addition to the near-completion of this latrine, the excavation for the second latrine's pit has also started.  Lauren, Milesh and Suraj have done a good job of getting materials together, getting the community engaged and moving progress along.

Today, as construction of the latrine continued, we began conducting a few water quality tests for the borehole water.  So far we've tested for some heavy metals (arsenic, aluminum, and a test for multiple-metal detection) and they've all appeared negative (or very very low concentration), which is good news.  We'll be doing some more tests for bacteria later, and sending samples to a lab for more accurate results. 

That's everything we have to say so far in a nutshell. We'll update again soon, hopefully with even more progress being made.