Update from Puerto Rico, by Chris Kenning
The WaterStep team in hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico on Thursday saw its first disaster water purifier system installed by a community near Vega Baja, bringing as much as 10,000 gallons of safe water a day to the neighborhood where municipal water isn’t safe or has shut down.
“The water comes and goes,” Manuel Class, a community leader of Vega Baja. “Now it’s easy for people to have water and take it home.”
In a barrio of Vega Baja, where bottled water is difficult to find and water trucks are rare in a city of 55,000 every few days, many take buckets, bottles and drums to a natural body of water called Ojo de Agua where children swim, people bathe and which contains trash and runoff.
“There’s a huge potential for it to pick up all kinds of pathogens associated with animals, with human waste, food waste – all sorts of threats that make the water unsafe to drink,” said WaterStep member Bill Parker, who accompanied community leaders who installed the system. “The community itself has no idea when their municipal water supply will be safe for them to utilize. So going forward they have a simple, easy-to-use system that will make the water safe for as long as it needs to be.”
The new system made its first 300 gallons within a few hours. On Friday, WaterStep continued its training sessions for more municipalities still struggling nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria.