S&T's Engineers Without Borders bring biosand filtration to Bolivia | The American Ceramic Society

S&T’s Engineers Without Borders bring biosand filtration to Bolivia

S&T student

S&T student Emily Pasch working in Erquis Sud last year. (Credit: Missouri S&T.)

Students from Missouri University of Science and Technology will bring sustainable, clean water to portions of rural Bolivia this summer.

Students with the university’s Engineers Without Borders chapter are making the trip this summer. S&T’s EWB chapter began working with the community of Erquis Sud in 2008.

Team leader Emily Pasch, a senior in mechanical engineering from Lake Zurich, Ill., says S&T students have designed a water distribution system for the subdivision. The system connects a well to a storage tank and uses PVC pipes to distribute water to houses in the subdivision. The planned well will be dug deep enough to draw clean water that will require little or no treatment. The team will also provide funds to bring electricity to the community to power a submersible pump for the system so that water could potentially be pumped automatically up to the storage tank.

“The project is anticipated to have drastic effects on the health of the community members, particularly infants,” Pasch explains.

In Tacachia, designed a new water distribution system that includes two hydraulic ram pumps, two settling tanks, two 2,500-gallon storage tanks, and in-home biosand filters.

“These pumps use the flow rate of the Rio Palca river – not electricity – to divert water from the river up a mountainside where settling tanks will be located,” says team leader Matthew Schultz of Ellisville, Mo., a senior in architectural and civil engineering. “This will lower the suspended solids in the water before it’s sent to the storage tanks. From there, water can be distributed throughout a PVC pipe system to each of the homes.”

Inside each home, a biosand filter will then make the water drinkable.

Last year, S&T students introduced the concept of biosand filtration to the community by installing 10 precast concrete filters. The team also constructed one of the needed ferrocement storage tanks. Ferrocement structures are typically strong and inexpensive to build, and made from a wire-reinforced mixture of sand, water and cement.

This year the students plan to build the two settling tanks and 30 biosand filters, using 160-liter plastic barrels for the bodies of the filters. S&T student will also continue to assess the feasibility of constructing an 800-foot-long pedestrian footbridge across the river to provide access to health and educational facilities on the opposing riverbed during the rainy season.