Working with Haiti Water Partners, Frank Getchell, a senior supervising hydrogeologist, is providing pro bono hydrogeological services to create a supplemental groundwater supply for New Hope Hospital, as well as for the nearby residents of Habitation Duperier in Plaine-Du-Nord, Haiti.
“The current drinking water supply is separated from the hospital and consists of several hand pumps of varying reliability and un-treated quality,” Getchell said. “This project will provide residents with a reliable and accessible drinking water supply.”
Getchell volunteered design and on-site hydrogeologic assistance to Partners 4 New Hope, the organization spearheading the project. He aided the organization with the selection and installation of the pumping equipment, and provided performance and groundwater quality characterization of the hospital supply wells. In addition, Getchell helped with the preliminary hydrogeologic characterization necessary for the future wastewater disposal system selection and design.
New Hope Hospital, led by Dr. Eugene Maklin, opened in 2016 to serve a community of more than 250,000 people who have had insufficient access to health care.
Work on the New Hope project began in 2017 and is expected to be completed in December 2018. Work on water distribution and treatment design was completed in April, and on-site installation and testing is taking place this month.
The water system is energized through a combined grid and solar electric system, and is being monitored and maintained by a local technician who was trained by Haiti Water Partners.
“The supply wells, pumping equipment, and treatment system have been designed and paid for entirely through donations,” Getchell said. “The local technician is providing reports to the group, and a solar electric system is monitored remotely through the internet.”
Some of the solar electric equipment was donated as a result of system upgrades being implemented at an upstate New York facility. Electrical engineering support was made available through networking provided by the Ford Foundation, and the drilling of the wells was funded by several nonprofit organizations in the U.S.
“The installation of the pumps was enabled by way of re-use and re-designing of discarded building materials at the hospital,” Getchell said. “Remote access via internet in conjunction with the training of the local technician is expected to enable close-to real-time system operation monitoring and provision of responses to water supply/system malfunctions.”
Seeing the Smiles
While Getchell experienced a bit of a language barrier while working in the French-speaking country, he said the biggest challenges are the limited availability of soil and hydrogeologic information, limited availability of qualified contractors and equipment for the project, site access and safety concerns, and the need to develop the project on a tight budget that depends upon donations.
Those challenges have driven Getchell’s resolve to make an impact on the residents who will benefit from the new water supply.
“It has been very rewarding to be able to use my hydrogeologic background to provide a viable and safe drinking water supply for a community that sorely needs one,” he said. “When I see the smiles on the faces of the local residents in response to their seeing and feeling the water coming out of the well pump, it makes me truly grateful for being given the opportunity to help them meet a very basic need for a better quality of life.”
He added that the opportunity has provided him with exposure to work with and learn from experts in other fields, including civil engineers, electrical engineers, and funding experts. “It has also been rewarding to be able to share my hydrogeologic experience and insight with junior staff who are interested in understanding how wells work and how groundwater can be used as a reliable drinking water supply source,” Getchell said.
Even when this project is completed, similar work will continue in the region that will require the participation of engineering volunteers. “The next phase of this project will involve the design and installation of a secondary wastewater treatment and subsurface disposal system,” Getchell said. Smaller-scale projects are also being considered for a nearby school.
To learn more about Partners 4 New Hope, visit the organization’s website at www.haitimissionbranchenord.org.
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