Week of July 11-16 Part Two

Building began Friday, with cutting of the metal. We are still on schedule, and should be done with building by mid-next week. Once the frame is welded together, we will be able to conduct testing as to its effectiveness compared to the flocculator in the lab.

This weekend we planned a trip to go hiking in Zomba, on the mountain. The president has a residence on the mountain, and it was very scenic driving up as many old houses and trees were along the road. Apparently, Zomba used to be the old capital of Malawi and thus has a more historical feel to it compared to Blantyre. Once higher up on the mountain, we saw many people selling raspberries, which was exciting. We ended up filling a one-gallon zip lock bag with them before leaving. Once on the hike, I got very confused all of a sudden, as I started to smell pine trees and see pine needles all over the ground, as if I were back in New England. Our guide told us that these trees were imported and grown for the lumber industry. It was certainly a strange landscape, seeing pine trees in the sub-tropics and raised the question of how common a practice it has become to import foreign trees for logging. Next week, we should be able to finish building our apparatus and maybe even go out for a water collection.

Week of July 11-16 Part One

Now that a design has been decided upon, we put together a shopping list. We wanted to use both easily sourced materials as well as inexpensive ones. We thought scrap metals would be the best material for this and we went to the market. To gather all the materials, both for the framework and for the stirring apparatus, we spent about three afternoons at the market. On Wednesday, we met with Dr. Mkandawire, who said we were on the right track. Despite earlier discouragements that building would be a misguided project, she believed that we should still put forth efforts to devise a treatment system even if it might fail in the field because it would all be part of the learning process.

On Thursday, we had a scheduled trip to the Blantyre Water Board’s collection and treatment facility at Walkers Ferry. We hoped that by visiting the municipal water treatment system, we would have a better understanding of how water treatment works in general and what the standards are for the Southern Region of Malawi. A four-stage process—extraction, sedimentation (several sub-stages), filtration, and finally chlorination—was used to supply over 90% of the required water to Blantyre. A set of pumps, tanks, gages, as well as a large contact tank to store the chlorinated water before being pumped to Blantyre, proved the complexity of water treatment. Our system hopes to combine sedimentation and treatment into one bucket, filtration as a step between the two buckets, and then clean water in the bottom bucket.

Week of July 5-10 Part Two

Clog and Owen have designed a two-bucket system for our treatment system. The untreated water will be put in the top bucket with the moringa powder, mixed using a handle secured with a ball bearing, and then left to treat for five hours. There will be a tap at the base of this bucket, and to filter out the moringa powder, the water will flow out and into the next bucket. This bucket will have a chitenje fabric filter, similar to the sari cloth used in India, as it is an inexpensive way to filter out the flocs in the water. Once filtered, users can draw water from the bucket using a tap located at the bottom. Our goal is to create a system as low cost as possible that still proves effective. Coagulation with the moringa seed requires mixing and filtration (or lengthy sedimentation) to work, so we must include such steps in our apparatus, despite making it more cumbersome.

Purchasing of materials will begin early next week so we can start building the system. With an initial set-up, we can workshop a bit to see if we can simplify the mixing and filtering any, as the eventual goal would be to use these in villages on daily basis. If they prove too cumbersome, or simply a hassle, they likely will not be used at all. Making sure that they are actually useful will be a major working point for us in the coming weeks.

During the weekend, some of the group went to the Satemwa Tea and Coffee Plantation to explore the fields as well as go for high tea at the Huntington House. It was nice to be able to explore the estate so freely, walking around the forest as well as the coffee plants. It was a bit rainy, which made the driving and walking on dirt roads a bit difficult, but no less fun.

Week of July 5-10 Part One

This week will be a fairly light week, as Monday was July 4 and we were returning from Lake Malawi. Wednesday was the independence holiday for Malawi. We spent the week working through our data, correcting the scaling so all treatment times could be compared because some had to be tested on different dates given the limitations on lab equipment and availability of the microbiology lab that had the incubator. We chose to base our decision on how effectively the moringa seed was able to reduce turbidity as well as E. coli coliform count, as non-fecal coliforms are much less hazardous.

Moringa seed introduced as a powder, not premixed as a solution, proved the most effective method of dosing. A treatment time of five hours and 50mg/L dosing had the best results overall, reducing the E. coli coliform count 100% and turbidity nearly 32%. The effectiveness in reducing biological contaminants was a bit surprising and was the relatively low reduction in turbidity as compared to previous research. It seems that much of the initial turbidity in the water was reduced by simple settling over the course of five hours as the turbidity of the control at five hours was also lower than the initial levels.

Owen and Clog, as mechanical and civil engineers, took lead on the design portion of this project. We believed that despite the convenience of a rolling apparatus, where the rolling movement would serve as ample mixing for the moringa seed powder and water, it would be difficult to use in the villages where there are not smooth paths and the terrain is quite hilly. Additionally, few villagers seem to travel far for their water collection, so we think that an apparatus that can be placed in the home or near the well would be the easiest to use.

Week of June 26-July 4 Part Two

Early Saturday morning, we left for a group trip to Lake Malawi’s Cape Maclear. We planned a July 4 weekend with everyone in the program, finding lodging at a very nice part of the lake. The first night there, we experienced a bit of a fiasco, as we planned a boating trip with a tour guide that was not part of the “Lake Malawi Association of Tour Guides.” We were approached by a large crowd of people on the beach, angry that we did not know to book a tour with association. After threatening to sue us and meeting with the head councilman, we were able to smooth everything over and secure a boat to an island for the next day.

The trip the island was lots of fun and there was snorkeling as well as watching the eagles feed on fish. Later that evening we had a bonfire with music on the beach, but there were many group disagreements on how to plan all of these things, which made the weekend also a bit tense. We all had a quiet day on July 4 and headed home later that evening.

Week of July 26-July 4 Part One

Monday night was one of our colleague’s (from the Polytechnic) After delays in the project, we seem to have finally gotten off the ground, and we met early Tuesday morning to go to the Bangwe township’s Ntopwa village with the Dean of Engineering at the Polytechnic University. When there, we were able to visit three different sites of water collection. The first was a traditional looking well, lined with brick, covered, about four meters deep. This was at a specific house and seemed to be the least turbid water. The second was a dug shallow well in the ground, less than a meter deep. This water was extremely turbid, meaning the moringa seed had good potential to improve the quality. The third site was also a dug shallow well, but about 1-2 meters deep and of less turbidity. After collection, we ran tests for pH, conductivity, turbidity, and biological tests as well (to determine both the presence of coliforms/e. coli as well quantitative information).

Ideally, a water source that has high turbidity as well as E. coli count would be the best source to use for moringa seed testing, as it is supposed to greatly reduce turbidity and biological contaminants. The second well was chosen for this reason. It was the most turbid and had large enough quantities of E. coli and non-fecal coliforms that the effectiveness of moringa seed could be tested.

The moringa seed would be tested in different dosages (50mg/L, 100mg/L, and 250mg/L), as a powder, as a pre-mixed solution, and for different lengths of time (1hr, 2hr, 5hr, and 10hr). The 2hr and 5hr tests would be run on Wednesday, while the 1hr and 10hr tests would be run on Thursday. Ideally, all would be done on the same day, but with limited equipment and the amount of time involved, we knew we would have to split the tests across two days, adjusting with separate control values.

I was unable to attend the collections and testing both days because of sickness, but Isabel took charge of the lab work. Once all the results are in (12:30am Friday night), the best dosage, type of dosage, and amount of time can be determined.

Week of June 19-25 Part Two

Because the faculty was unable to attend, we had to cancel our trip. In order to find an even easier access site, we began to contact the Queens Elizabeth Central Hospital as well as Beit Cure Hospital to see if they’d let us test their water and see if we could devise a treatment with Moringa seed incase their water needed improving. Because we also would need written permission from the water board in the city, it seemed unlikely that this idea would work out, either. Thankfully, the Dean of Engineering at the Polytechnic, said she could take us to the Bangwe Township, specifically to the Ntopwa Village to open well water sources. Additionally, a civil engineering staff member was near the site, so we would be able to visit frequently without issue. It seems that next week will prove very exciting because of this new opportunity.

Week of June 19-25 Part One

Monday, we were originally scheduled to go to Chikwawa and begin working on the Ndlema Village Water Treat Project. This would have been transporting the barrels and all materials up early Monday morning, building a platform, starting work on the bio char by end of day Tuesday. It would not have been until Saturday, when we assembled the apparatus, that we would have returned to Blantyre. However, because of the length of trip involved, spotty cell service, and lack of faculty oversight available, we postponed the trip until later in the week. It was then decided that the risks involved in this project, as well as the issues with simply building a treatment system and then leaving, were too much to continue.

Therefore, it was back to the drawing board. We decided to look for a closer village, one where a faculty member could hopefully be more available to supervise in case anything happened. We would be less focused on creating an entire water treatment system and instead try to work through the moringa seed dosage, method of dosage, and time of treatment. Biological contaminants, such as e. coli and coliform count, and turbidity would be the tests used to determine the effectiveness. A planned trip to the school site in Lunzu is planned for Thursday.

Week of June 13-18 Part 2

The second half of this week involved gearing up for the trip to Chikwawa, as it was determined to be the ideal location. Most everyone agreed that Chikwawa would be more exciting due to isolation, but Lunzu was still considered because it meant easy transport of building materials and being near Blantyre, our home base. Going to Chikwawa would mean a week of living in Chikwawa, which would take planning. However, we still decided to go to Chikwawa. Thursday and Friday of this week were spent in the back of a pickup truck, driving through the different markets looking for all the necessary supplies. Some things, such as the blue barrels and oil drums were easy to locate, but others, such as the sieve materials and the correct pipe fittings were quite difficult to find, if not impossible. Several of the sieves had to made from other material in the end.

On Saturday, June 18, the larger group of interns planned a trip to the Majete Game Reserve, which was near Chikwawa. It was an interesting experience because we not only did the traditional game drive, but also did a boat drive. The boat let us see many more animals than expected, including hippos, crocodiles, and many birds. Both were lots of fun, but it was definitely a long day. However, we were able to see the mountain road at sunset on the ride back, which was quite beautiful.


Week of June 13-18 Part 1

We had two village trips planned for the start of this week, and while originally the group was going to divide up to visit the sites, we decided it was better to visit them all together so we could determine which had the most potential. On Monday, June 13, we went back to Lunzu, but to a different site—this time to a small private school that used both borehole water and open reservoir water. This was the site suggested by the Village Hygiene Project, and the school administration seemed interested in the proposal. Testing the water, we found that e. coli and other coliforms were certainly present.

On Tuesday, we went to Chikwawa, to the Ndlema village, which involved a long trip in minibus on a mountain highway followed by a bumpy trip up another mountain in a 4WD truck. The village was very isolated, especially in comparison to the school site, meaning that the village does not get much outside attention from water projects. They were certainly happy to share their water collecting process and welcomed the idea of the project. They, too, used a borehole, but it was determined to be contaminated. Additional water was taken from a nearby stream, but the water level was very low and the water was stagnant. We were not able to collect samples initially because we were unsure how to travel with glass bottles on such a bumpy road, but were fairly certain of the contamination.