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March 14, 2013

Purdue students spend spring break creating clean-water solutions for Caribbean children

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - An interdisciplinary team of 15 Purdue University students will return to campus Monday (Mar. 18) after spending spring break in the Dominican Republic doing the field research necessary to create a sustainable water purification system for school children.

Tests show that the available water is contaminated with E coli. The Purdue students this semester have created filter prototypes in a lab and have examined other water treatment alternatives. They will adapt their design based on what they learn about local water conditions, health needs, availability of materials, and other factors.

The Environmental Protection Agency's People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) student design competition provided partial funding for the students' feasibility studies. The Purdue team will travel to Washington, D.C., in April to present its concept at the National Sustainable Design Expo to compete for the money needed to implement the plan over the next two years.

Civil Engineering professor Ernest “Chip” Blatchley says the spring break trip's inquiry and relationship building is necessary to ensure the project's success.

"There is all sorts of water-treatment hardware sitting around in developing countries that has been abandoned by local communities," he says.  "There are a number of nontechnical factors that influence how well or poorly a project is going to be assimilated by a community."

The students are drawn from engineering, agricultural and biological engineering, biology, and nursing. They have been “working the problem” since September and have partnered with a nonprofit corporation, Aqua ClaraInternational, to ensure that the concept they develop is feasible and sustainable for this Dominican Republic community.

Writer: Jim Schenke, 765-237-7296, jschenke@purdue.edu

Source: Ernest Blatchley, blatch@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Students and their photos and video from the Domincan Republic are available to media. For more information, contact Jim Schenke, Purdue News Service, 765-237-7296, jschenke@purdue.edu.