Sunday, September 1, 2013

Implementation Success!

­­­­Hey everybody! Erin, Christine, and I are sitting at the Addis Ababa airport waiting for our flight to London and then finally to New York. After over a month spent in Ghana, our travel team has finally completed the Obodan water distribution system! The roadblocks and challenges seemed endless, yet our dedicated EWB group, with the help of contractors, village members, and countless children in the community, constructed a working water distribution system for Obodan. Even in the last couple of days with the system working, it seems like a huge success. The community spends less time and effort in fetching water. They don’t have to use a hand pump to have water anymore and many in the community now have water significantly closer to their houses. When I first got to Obodan and saw all the work that we had to complete, I was skeptical that the project would get completed. After all those months and long hours both working on the design of the system and the implementation, EWB-Columbia, Ghana chapter completed this project.

Some group members and the community while Lucas inspects the spigot

I think the most important and memorable day for me is when the water finally started flowing. Last Wednesday (8/21/13), the pump supplier finally installed the pump and we connected it to the system and got water! This week started out very stressful. First off, Electric Company of Ghana took forever to connect to the grid. Eventually Christine and Lucas had to go to their office in nearby Nsawam to pay them and have them sign a contract saying that they had to complete the task by the end of the day. It was an especially stressful day because had ECG decided to come in two weeks like they originally planned, our project would not have been finished in the allotted time we had. Once the electric company came, they couldn’t connect to the grid because the other electricians that we hired had made a single-phase electrical setup instead of the necessary triple-phase. This required them to come back the next day once it was fixed. Luckily, they did come the next day which allowed for water that day!

One of the first times using water

Of course, the problems didn't stop there. Once we filled the tanks up all the way, we found leaks, leaks, and more leaks at the tank connections. We had to fix these and once we fixed these there were still a ton of leaks. The leaks stemmed from not having quality made tanks that matched up perfectly. Eventually, on the third try, we fixed all the leaks and the system ran smoothly. The other work involved was building masonry over the exposed pipes near the well in order to deter theft and protect the pipes from weather conditions, and building concrete slabs for each of the spigot locations so that the ground wouldn't become like a swimming pool.  We also shocked the water table and both tanks with chlorine so that the drinking water would be cleaner. After all these steps and some other minor fixes, the system was complete!

Christine, Erin and Robbie at the tanks

Now as a chapter we face a crossroads. We have to figure out where our chapter should go next. Obodan has developed a lot since we started coming there about eight years ago. Other communities in the surrounding area face many more problems. For example, in one community they only access to water involves using a hand well that often dries up or walking ½ mile to a river that frequently dries up as well. The team members in Ghana are all really excited about taking a new engineering challenge and helping to improve the lives of another community. We have decisions to make that could lead us to stay in Ghana or possibly a new place like South America or anywhere else that has a need that our chapter could help solve.   
Erin at a finished spigot

Thanks to the students who helped with implementation: Mira, Lucas, Kofi, Leerang, Erin, Christine, and Robbie and to the mentors: Kelly and Martin. Also, thanks to all the EWB students who helped with grant writing, fundraising, the design, and all the other tasks that were essential for a successful project and finally to all the other mentors that helped guide us throughout the project.  Lastly, a huge thank you to Sammy, the local assemblyman, who helped us with everything we needed once we were in Ghana. This project could never have been finished without all of your help!

Some of our group with Sammy


Day 20 - 27: Final Step!

 On August 20th, we entered the final stage of our implementation: pump and float switch installation. In the morning, Wise Water Engineering came to install the float switches and lay out the wires from the borehole to the tanks. However they ran out of the wire and conduits, so they headed back to Accra to buy more materials and had to come back the next morning. Meanwhile, the Electric Company Ghana came and made connection to the electrical grid.
Wise Water Engineering laying out the wires for float switches

ECG connecting to the electrical grid

 August 21stwas a big day, because all of our contractors came. Borehole remover arrived first at 6 a.m., and removed the hand pump at the borehole. Then Wise Water Engineering came to finish the wiring. Following was the AKO Engineering who came for the initial installation of pump. When the pump was installed, we pumped up the water for the rest of the day so that we could fill up the tanks.
Borehole specialist removing the hand pump

AKO Engineering installing the pump
Water pumping out from the pump!

 Next morning, AKO Engineering came back to uninstall the pump so that we could shock the borehole with chlorine. While the borehole was shut down for cleaning, people could use the water from the tanks. After the shock, AKO reinstalled the pump and the control box.
 It was also the first day that water finally came out of the spigot. It was also Chrinstine’s birthday, and her uncle gave us a box of cupcake and four boxes of pizza.
Shocking the borehole. We put the chlorine in the water bottle
 with gravel and send it down through the borehole
 After the pump installation was complete, from 8/24 to 8/27 we mainly worked on fixing the leakages, making the concrete slab around the spigot, and building the masonry wall around the pump to protect the pump. There was a big leakage on the tank which took many hours to fix, but we eventually made it work. Meanwhile, Lucas and Leerang visited Amanfrom and Fahianko to look around other communities. In both communities people are having a major problem with getting clean water.

Building the spigot slab
Building the masonry wall around pump

Tank connections

People fetching water from stagnant pool in Amanfrom

 Once the spigot slab was cured, people all started fetching water! We had a meeting with a water committee to go over the operation and maintenance manual, and talked about how to collect money from people. We had a nice team picture with Sammy and Obanzu before Lucas, Martin, and Leerang headed back to U.S.

People fetching water from spigot!
Water Committee 

Team Photo!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Days 9 - 19: Setting up pipes and tanks

The past 10 days have been dedicated to setting up the piping, tanks, and spigots, so that as soon as the pump is installed, water can be pumped up to the tanks from the borehole and accessed at the spigots. As always, the work has been grueling but rewarding. Christine, Erin, and Robbie joined our team in Ghana on the 12th. 

Here, Christine is carrying gravel to put into the trenches to stabilize the pipes.

Erin and Robbie clear the trench of debris before laying the pipe down.

Robbie works on cleaning and gluing PVC pipes together.

Erin carries PVC pipes from the storage location in the chiefs' palace to the worksite.

The piping is almost complete - just one more PVC length until we reach the tank connection .

Robbie, Christine, Mira, Sammy, Lucas, Erin, Leerang, and Kofi stand proudly before the fully connected tanks.

We were unable to find valve boxes (apparently these are not made or sold in Ghana) so we improvised them out of 6-inch HDPE pipes and PVC pipe caps. The kids figured out that our "valve boxes" made excellent drums and serenaded us all afternoon.

Wise Water Engineering, our electrician contractors, installed the meter board for the power supply. Here they are installing a copper grounding rod, using water and a hoe to dig the hole for the rod. 

Mira, Christine, and Erin were invited to speak at the girls' secondary school in Obodan. We explained the project we are working on in Obodan, and then we encouraged the girls to study hard in school, especially math and science, in order to bring development to their own villages. Hopefully we've encouraged some of the girls to become engineers like us!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Days 5 - 9: The Buildup

The past few days have been jam packed with activity at the project site. Our orders of polytanks and PVC piping have arrived in Obodan from Accra. The whole community pitched in to carry the tank to the slab site since the path was too narrow for the delivery truck.

One of our biggest challenges so far is rallying the community to dig the trenches. We had expected most of the trenching to be completed when we arrived but there had been some miscommunication in trenching depth, trenching location, and property concerns, so most of this past week has been dedicated to digging and redigging. Many community members understand the value of putting in a hard day's work to benefit the village, and so they have been helping gather others to pich in. Hopefully in the next couple days we can complete our necessary 1000 feet of trenching.


We are quite certain that this water distribution would not be on schedule were it not for a foreman named Ado. He is living in Obodan because he is working on a secondary school government project, but has the time to help us since his project has been delayed. His expertise in masonry, steelbending, electrician work, plumbing work, and borehole drilling have been vital to keeping our project's timeframe. Below we have the full team pictured:

Top row, left to right: Ado (foreman), Obanzu (taxi driver), Kelly (mentor), Leerang Mira
Bottom row, left to right: Kofi, Sammy (assemblyman), Lucas

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Akwaaba! Summer 2013 Trip Begins

Greetings from Ghana!

Team 1 (Mira, Lucas, Kofi, Kelly, and Leerang) has safely landed in Ghana and started working on the water distribution project.We are staying at a newly opened hotel called the Spino Lodge near Sammy's farm, and we have been in Obodan every day.

In the past three days, we have begun contacting contractors, inspecting the community's work on the piping trenches, working on the slab, and holding community meetings. We are hiring many local skilled laborers and contractors for this project. The community has pitched in many hours of labor to help.

Kofi, Leerang, Lucas, and Mira meet with Wise Water Engineering representatives. These contractors will help with electric work.

We spoke with the Obodan water committee about their collection of fees at the existing boreholes and about future fee collection for the electric pump system. They reported that fee collection has increased since last year, and the funds have been used around the community for streetlights and a public market. They plan to hire older women who cannot work elsewhere to attend the spigots, and these women will receive a percentage of the monthly collected fees. We emphasized the importance of saving the money to pay for electric bills and incidental repairs and replacements.

Our biggest meeting so far has been with the general community. Kofi, a Columbia student who grew up in Accra, addressed the community to explain the new water system and answer any questions or concerns they had. The biggest concern was employment, now that basic needs have been met with EWB sponsored infrastructure. We explained that our organization does not offer employment or business solutions, but we promised to look into microfinance NGOs to help Obodan reach new levels of development. We are pleased to see the community has independently reached the conclusion that economic development is now their top prioirty.

Kofi speaks on behalf of Columbia University EWB at the community meeting