Most students at West Virginia University spent their 2012 winter break catching up with family and friends back home. However, seven members of Engineers Without Borders traveled to Fiji with one goal in mind: install seven slow sand filters that would greatly improve the quality of water in the remote village of Nakavika.

Nakavika is located in the Namosi highlands on Viti Levu Island. Members of the team took an assessment trip earlier in 2012 and discovered that the water in the village was traced with high levels of fecal contaminants, which can be deadly when consumed. Outbreaks of typhoid fever in surrounding villages necessitated the installation of the filters, which are inexpensive to produce and install and easy to operate. The slow sand filter is a mix of sand and gravel that will rid the water of particles, including pathogens. Over time, a biological layer is formed that filters out even more potentially harmful materials.

This is not the first time the team, whose trip was sponsored by the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, installed slow sand filters abroad. Lance Lin, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and faculty advisor to EWB, has been working on this project with students since 2007.

“I took student teams to Nicaragua in 2008 and 2010 as well for a similar water filter project,” said Lin. “We also trained and educated the city staff on water treatment.”

Since their trip to Nicaragua, EWB members have modified the project to fit the needs of the village of Nakavika.

“The modifications for Nakavika were a bit more challenging because we had to install additional plumbing and storage tanks based on water use for that specific village,” said Zachary Watson, a senior from Morgantown, W.Va., majoring in electrical engineering. “It was a great lesson for any engineer. You have to take what you have, and work with it.”

In addition to completing their work, EWB members also had a chance to spend time with the villagers.

“My favorite part of the experience was viewing a culture and lifestyle so unlike my own,” said Manassas, Va., native Aaron Deneau, a junior majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering. “When we weren’t working, we were socializing with the villagers. There were a few children, villagers and staff members that each of us grew really close to and who we will remember forever.”

EWB is an international organization that aims to improve the standard of living in areas around the world through engineering projects. But their work is also paying dividends locally as well. Their most recent local project was with the Boys Home in Chestnut Mountain Ranch, in Morgantown, W.Va., where they built a French drain system for their field.

Other members of the EWB team include seniors Zachary Cesa, of Mt. Morris, Pa., majoring in petroleum and natural gas engineering, and Nicholas Horvath, a chemical engineering major from Morgantown, W.Va.; junior Chuck Ma, of Morgantown, W.Va., majoring in petroleum and natural gas engineering; and Wheeling, W.Va., natives and sophomores Erika Allen, majoring in chemical engineering, and Daniel Knight, majoring in civil and environmental engineering.



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon