Trip to Dominican Republic 2018

In September 2018, one of our club’s advisers and a former hydraulic engineering professor here at Lehigh, Dr. Richard Weisman, traveled to the Dominican Republic on behalf of our club. Hear his experience down below.

The main goals of my trip to the Dominican Republic last September were (1) to see the progress made by the Lehigh Valley Professional Chapter which is designing water supply systems for two communities in the northwest corner of the DR, (2) to meet people who are helping the LV Chapter with its projects, and (3) to visit the community of El Manantial which our Lehigh University Chapter of EWB has selected as our next project. I traveled with three other Lehigh Valley people: Bill MacNair, Julie Zeliensky, and Eddie Aybar. All goals of the trip were satisfied. The LV Chapter has designs which are being approved by a government agency. I witnessed a pump test conducted by another agency in the community of Cabeza de Toro. I was able to see the layout of the community while looking at the plans for the water distribution system and the location for a storage tank. The community members present for the pump test were very excited and highly invested in seeing progress being made. I met many people who will be vital to the success of our Lehigh University EWB Chapter project in El Manantial. This includes the engineers and geologists from government agencies, some non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), some local politicians (alcaldes), people from Rotary, and the community leaders in El Manantial. A special mention should be made of Pastor Eddie Aybar, a resident of Allentown with strong connections to the Dominican Republic. Pastor Eddie has been a key player in the success of the Lehigh Valley Professional Chapter. During our trip, he was our translator our driver, and our cultural representative. Our visit to El Manantial consisted of a community meeting with around 25 local residents, including the leaders of the village and a visit to 3 existing wells in the community. One of those wells might become our water source or we might need to have a new well drilled. There are also 3 ponds in or near the town that are used as stock ponds. Two of those were dry during our visit and one still held some water left over from the rainy season.

Trip to El Manantial, Dominican Republic Spring 2019

Over Spring Break in March 2019, three students, Jack Payne, Kelby Anderson, and Hannah Clarkson, as well as club adviser and engineering technician at Fritz laboratory at Lehigh University, Dan Zeroka, traveled to the  Dominican Republic to conduct an initial assessment of our project in the community of El Manantial.

The initial assessment trip this past March allowed students from our club to go to the community of El Manantial and gather information for the water distribution system. The students met with community leader Fausto to discuss the current situation regarding water and what the community needed changed. Currently, each household in the community recieves one 55 gallon barrel of water a week from the government agency INAPA, however, INAPA is unreliable and sometimes won’t come for up to two weeks at a time. A laguna in the center of the community fills up during the wet season to provide a public water source, however, the water in the laguna is unusable for drinking. At the time of the team’s travel, there had been no rain since November. This information contextualized the need for water and gave the students valuable perspective on the situation. While in the community, Jack, Kelby, Hannah, and Dan collected GPS data to create a GIS map of the community to aid in designing the layout of the system. Before travel, club members were told that there were three wells in the community that could potentially be used for the system. Once in the community, it was made known that two of those wells are privately owned and the owners do not want to share the water. When the travel team tested the conductivity in the third well using Dan Zeroka’s probe, it became clear that the water in the third well likely had too high salinity to be usable. Jack, Kelby, Hannah, and Dan were also present at a community meeting where the water board was formed for the community. Before departure, the team briefly stopped by Cabeza de Toro and Machete, the communities where the Lehigh Valley professional chapter of EWB is working to get an update on their progress to relay to Bill McNair. Huge thanks must be made once again to Pastor Eddy Aybar for serving as the travel team’s translator, driver, host, and cultural liason. Since the team’s return, effort has been made to contact Jesus Medina, a local hydrogeologist, concerning the salinity of the current well and the possibility of drilling a new well within the community.