Distribution of Intermittent Slow-Sand Filtration
Systems in Macuelizo, Honduras
Philip Turner, Robert Turner, Matthew Turner, and George Turner
Abstract: The purpose of this mission is to supplement a pre-existing deworming and
vitamin distribution program with the provision of sustainable access to clean drinking
water. This will be achieved specifically with the implementation of intermittent slow-
sand filters at the household level as well as in schools chiefly in the Municipality of
Macuelizo, Santa Barbara, Honduras, but also in the greater Valle de Quimistan.
Additional strategies include the promotion of hygiene education, proper water storage,
the distribution of shoes and sandals, basic first aid, and exploring the possibilities of
expanding deworming as a method of treating morbidity associated with helminthiasis,
primarily among children. Because of disparities in access to healthcare and aid this
work will be primarily focused on affecting the lives of the poorest in these communities.
Almost half the world's population suffers from diseases associated with insufficient or contaminated water and is at risk from waterborne and food borne diseases. Access to sources ofclean drinking water, sanitation facilities, and education about hygiene are necessary for goodpublic health. Fortunately intermittent slow sand water filters offer an effective and cheap way ofproviding clean water for households and schools. Likewise educational materials are abundantand readily available.
Diarrhoeal disease caused over three million deaths in 1995, 80% of which were among children under the age of five. It was estimated that 88% of that burden is attributable to unsafewater supply, sanitation and hygiene and is mostly concentrated on children in developingcountries. Approximately 5000 children die every day from diarrhea acquired from unsafedrinking water. (1-2) It is difficult to estimate the total burden of morbidity due to unsafe drinking water, but over 1 billion episodes of gastroenteritis and other infections are attributed to it each year. Thereare about 16 million cases of typhoid fever causing over 600,000 deaths a year. Epidemics ofcholera and dysentery cause severe disease, and high death rates. Worldwide, approximately 140million people develop dysentery each year, and about 600,000 die.(3). Seventy-nine millionpeople are estimated to be currently at risk of cholera infection in Africa, and the disease causes120,000 deaths a year.
Soilborne infections affect several million people a year, intestinal worm infections being the most prevalent. Depending upon severity these infections can lead to malnutrition,anaemia or retarded growth. Children are particularly susceptible to the effects and typicallyhave the largest number of worms. About 400 million school-age children are infected byroundworm, whipworm and/or hookworm. Roundworm and whipworm alone are estimated toaffect one-quarter of the world’s population.(4) It was recently reported in Science magazine that rotaviruses leads to 20–60 deaths a year in the United States and about 600,000 in the developing world.(11) This is one of the manytroubling health statistics that illustrates the grotesque disparity between health care in thedeveloped and the developing world. Mortality among children under the age of 5 yearscurrently averages 6 per 1000 births in industrialized countries, but is as high as 91 per 1000 inthe developing world.(9) Substantial progress has been made in child health care in the developing world. In 1960, 105 out of 1000 children born in Latin America or the Caribbean died before their firstbirthday; by 1999 that figure had fallen to 30 in 1000. However, progress has been uneven withone common theme emerging: poor children lag behind their better-off peers. This is true notonly between the industrialized and developing world, but also among the poor within countries.
In Brazil over the period 1987 to 1992 the mortality in children under 5 in the poorest third of thepopulation was six times greater than among the richest 10% of children (113 vs 19 per 1000 livebirths).(5) Reductions in infant and under-5 mortality have been fastest among the richestcountries,(6) and rates of child mortality and malnutrition have fallen faster among the better-off.
(7) This is evidence of an unfortunate trend of increasing socioeconomic inequalities, andtherefore increasing inequalities in child healthcare. The standard of living in terms of quality ofchild healthcare operates through determinates such as access to save drinking water andsanitation, and socioeconomic inequalities are highly visible not only between countries but alsowithin them.
Lack of access to clean drinking water is a major feature of extreme poverty, which almost exclusively affects the poor in the developing world. This is especially true in expanding
urban areas, poor rural areas, and indigenous communities. Community and municipal water
treatment systems are frequently impractical and often unaffordable. Water filtration on the
house-hold level is the most reasonable alternative for these people. Intermittent slow sand water
filtration, also commonly known as Biosand Filtration , provides an affordable and effective (see
Materials and Methods) option for treating drinking water in urban and rural communities of the
developing world.
Materials and Methods:
Funds are obtained from private donations in Boise, ID and throughout the United States. Water filters are purchased from the Aqua Pura Por El Mundo (Pure Water for the Worldof Rutland, VT) facility in Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, Honduras, and implemented in homesand schools in the Valle de Quimistan. During the implementation of the filters, educationalmaterials (thanks in part to CAWST of Calgary, Alberta) explaining the importance of cleanwater as well as those promoting good hygiene habits and disease prevention are distributed.
Water quality testing is carried out to investigate and demonstrate the effectiveness of the filtersas well as to analyze the quality of the municipal water and its seasonal variation using ColiscanWater Monitoring Kits (Microbiology Laboratories, Goshen, IN, USA). As stated above, thewater filters purchased by this organization are Biosand water filters. Biosand Filtration wasdeveloped by Dr. David Manz at the University of Calgary, Canada in the 1990’s, and is nowused world wide. Modifications to conventional slow sand filter technology include: 1) reducingthe height of the supernatant to 5 cm to provide the schmutzdecke (the “biofilm”) with sufficientoxygen for sporadic use, and 2) eliminating the need for sand bed removal through a “clean inplace” technique. Biosand water filters have proven to be effective in cleaning the water andimproving its taste, smell, and appearance. Biosand filters are excellent for widespread use inhousehold water treatment among the poor because they are: 1) easy to operate and maintain, 2)affordable and durable, 3) manufactured in local communities using local materials, and 4)require no chemicals or energy for use. In a field study conducted in Haiti, 107 Biosand filterswere found to have an average bacterial removal of 98.5% overall.(10) Results:
This was the fourth trip to Honduras and to Macuelizo in a period of 12 months. In June of 2007, twenty-five water filters were distributed by the Boise State University Clean WaterClub and its local Honduran partners in addition to the 10 installed in January of 2007. Aroundone hundred pairs of children’s shoes and sandals along with vitamins and basic first aidmaterials were distributed. Antihelminthic medicine, 200 doses of Albendazol (400mg singleliquid dose), purchased from Farsiman Laboratories of San Pedro Sula were donated to AguaPura Por El Mundo. A donation of surplus of water quality testing equipment was also made tothe Aqua Pura Por El Mundo facility in Santa Barbara.
The purpose of the mission is to provide access to clean drinking water through the implementation of Biosand water filters in the Valle de Quimistan region of Santa Barbara,Honduras. This work will focus on affecting the lives of the poorest in this area. The purchase of40 water filters from Aqua Pura has been secured for a December-January 2007-08 return trip,however, we would like to increase this number to 65.
Scared Heart Catholic Church in Boise, Idaho, Don Julio Cesar and the whole Altamirano family, and especially Michael and Maria Turner, for their continuous support andkindness.
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