PVC pipe used in humanitarian engineering project

Starting this summer, 27 miles of PVC pipe will supply water to 8,000 residents of this village in northern Honduras, thanks to a partnership that includes the local people, students and faculty from the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), and members of the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association (PPFA), based in Glen Ellyn, IL. The villagers, who were resettled here after their homes were destroyed ten years ago by Hurricane Mitch, work in sugar cane fields or in factories, earning $6 to $8 a day...

• Supplies water to thousands of Honduran Villagers

LAS COLINAS DE SUIZA, Honduras, June 17, 2008 -- Starting this summer, 27 miles of PVC pipe will supply water to 8,000 residents of this village in northern Honduras, thanks to a partnership that includes the local people, students and faculty from the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), and members of the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association (PPFA), based in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

The villagers, who were resettled here after their homes were destroyed ten years ago by Hurricane Mitch, work in sugar cane fields or in factories, earning $6 to $8 a day. Until now, they have lacked a village water supply and have had to spend one-third to one-half of their income on trucked-in potable water.

The project started in 2004, when CSM Professor David Muñoz first traveled to the village with some of his students to determine what the people needed most. David Chasis, an Austin, Texas-based consultant who is both an alumnus of CSM and a member of the PPFA, learned of the project and approached the association for help.

Chasis coordinated the donations of various sizes of pipes and fittings, as well as PVC primer and cement for joining the pipes. Eleven PPFA members donated $125,000 worth of product.

When the piping was shipped out late last year, PPFA also sent a bilingual expert to the site to teach the installation process and supervise the first week of the work.

Muñoz explained that, because the land is on a hill, the plan was to pump water from a nearby aquifer to a large storage tank and to use gravity to distribute it to each lot.

"The CSM students created a piping configuration and solid estimates of the quantity and sizes of pipe and fittings needed," Muñoz said. The villagers have participated from the outset in planning and funding, as well as supplying labor, including digging the ditches for laying the pipe in front of their own homes.

The students involved are engineering majors with a minor in a new humanitarian engineering program. "The goal," Muñoz said, "is to work on projects that require the use of engineering skills as well as greater awareness of cultural and societal differences in order to sustainably improve the lives of the underserved throughout the world."

"PPFA's greatest hope," Chasis said, "is for the project's success to bring the Honduran villagers a sustainable, life-changing experience."

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