As we stated in our last report The Puntacana Ecological Foundation and the rest of the Fuentes de Vida coalition are proud to announce the successful execution of the wastewater treatment portion of the FDV project. This has solidified three years of planning and trust building with the community of Domingo Maíz. Having seen the ability of the FDV coalition to produce results, the residents are now eagerly pushing for an effective solution to another basic need: access to safe potable water.
Since applying for funding from last year the Fuentes de Vida (FDV) Coalition has successfully constructed the province’s first community-scale wastewater treatment system in the community of Domingo Maíz. Throughout the approximately six month construction of the wastewater treatment system, the community of Domingo Maíz exceeded expectations adapting to an intensive and disruptive public works project in the heart of their community. The residents of Domingo Maíz living in the treatment area report several immediately noticeable benefits of the constructed wetlands system, namely the absence of effluent water pooling in public areas and a significant reduction in foul odors.
Sustained education/awareness on the importance of wastewater treatment, a complex topic to discuss even in the most developed communities, will continue as the principal long term initiative of FDV. During a recent community wide meeting the vast majority of community members demonstrated that they fully grasp the method of FDV – first treat the sources of contamination and then deliver safe potable water – and continued to support the project’s methodology. The community meeting also produced a strong push from the residents to advance with the potable water phase of the project.
Currently there are approximately 12 private wells providing water to the residents of Domingo Maíz. Water is pumped up from the ground into large tanks on the roof of the well owner’s house. Many problems currently arise from this system not least of which are: a lack of consistent chlorination, preferential/non-transparent pricing and a lack of water if the owner is absent for any stretch of time and thus not able to fill the tanks. While well water is not typically used for drinking, the residents of Domingo Maíz depend on this water for a myriad of activities which can still result in water borne illnesses such as cleaning and preparing foods, washing dishes, washing clothes, and bathing.
The principal objective of the potable water phase of the Fuentes de Vida project is to implement a centralized aqueduct system which will allow for more consistent water supply, greater community oversight and more consistent/transparent chlorination procedures. In order to achieve these desired outcomes the community of Domingo Maíz is currently forming the Water Committee, whose principal function will be to implement and execute the monthly quota system in order to provide the necessary start up funding and cover the subsequent operational costs of both the potable and wastewater systems. In addition the committee will oversee the operation of the potable water system including: regular maintenance, chlorination, closing off connections for those residents who do not pay their quotas, etc. the committee consists of a president, secretary, treasurer and a plumber. The Neighborhood Association of Domingo Maíz will appoint each member of the Water Committee for a term of one year.
The potable water phase of the Fuentes de Vida project involves several ambitious objectives both in terms of community organization as well as system functionality. As for this Global Giving page we ask that any and all potential donors continue to consider this project for their donations as we still need your help in raising the necessary funds for the potable water.
The Puntacana Ecological Foundation and the rest of the Fuentes de Vida coalition are proud to announce that the constructed wetlands wastewater treatment system has been completed!
Throughout the month of March 2014, most of the work focused on excavating the wetlands area of the system. When excavation began in February a 16-inch wide Vermeer trencher was first brought in to do the work, however, after several breakdowns and delays this was then replaced by a 30-inch wide trencher although breakdowns and delays continued due to the dense limestone substrate. Finally, the excavation of the wetlands was completed during the last week of March with a 2.4 meter wide “Tambor” trencher. On March 19th, volunteers from the NGO Positive Legacy (the same group that also awarded the project over USD$26,000) realized a day of service in the community in which they helped prepare the wire frames of the septic tanks and also continued painting the community park’s mural. With the wire frames ready to be assembled, skilled masons began constructing the septic tanks on March 25th and completed their work on April 1st. On March 19th, the Response Peace Corps volunteer who had been overseeing the project returned to the United States having already trained a local Dominican engineer to take his place as the project’s lead engineer.
Excavation of the main sewer lines began on April 1st and was completed on April 14th with a 60 cm wide Vermeer trencher. In total, 322.05 linear meters (231.88 m3) were excavated for the main sewer lines. The geotextile liner was installed on April 7th and 8th on the bottom of the constructed wetlands to prevent any leakage in the wetlands treatment area. After the liner was installed the wetlands area was filled back in with gravel measuring ¾ of an inch and 1 ½ inches (in total 197 m3 of ¾ inch gravel and 36 m3 of 1 ½ inch gravel were installed in the wetlands). Due to equipment constraints, filling in the wetlands with the gravel had to be done manually, with wheel barrels and shovels, thus this portion of the project lasted approximately two weeks. Simultaneously, workers from the community installed the main sewer lines and refilled the trenches with the material the trencher had removed.
The month of May 2014 was primarily dedicated to excavating the ancillary services lines with jackhammers and connecting the bathrooms to the system. Community members were responsible for paying for the necessary labor to connect their toilets to the system, which most residents did. On May 16th a new Peace Corps volunteer arrived in Domingo Maiz to work with the community on the system’s oversight and maintenance as well as the implementation of the monthly quota, which each household is supposed to pay. By the end of May almost all of the houses in the community were connected to the system and wastewater began flowing through the treatment system. On May 21st a group of Civil & Environmental engineers from the University of Virginia Tech arrived to carry out their annual community well water sampling, however, this year’s program also included a complete review of the system including initial water testing to quantify the system’s efficacy even without the plants.
Finally on Saturday, June 14th, the community members of Domingo Maiz and volunteers from other organizations/communities all participated in planting the plants in the wetlands, symbolically and literally marking the end of the construction of the Fuentes de Vida wastewater treatment system.
Moving forward the Ecological Foundation along with its project partners in the Fuentes de Vida coalition will work with the neighborhood association of Domingo Maiz to ensure the system is operating correctly while simultaneously beginning preparations for the implementation of the potable water system in the community.
Since the last report, Fuentes de Vida has continued to make progress towards implementing community wide sanitation systems in the community of Domingo Maiz. Recently, the Puntacana Ecological Foundation and its project partners were awarded a grant for nearly USD$26,000, thus allowing the FDV coalition to begin construction of the constructed wetlands wastewater treatment system. After months of vetting and negotiating with various construction firms the project team reached favorable contract terms with a local company and excavation of the wetlands treatment area began February 12, 2014. The construction of the wastewater treatment system is being overseen by a Response Peace Corps Volunteer and local engineers who have agreed to donate their time.
As of the first week of March 2014, the first half of the constructed wetlands has been fully excavated and the disposal well has been drilled for the treated water to flow back into the groundwater source. The left over limestone rock/sand that is being removed will be donated to the community members to be used as fill and caliche (a sort of impromtu cement).
Realizing a project of this magnitude has not been easy, however. The limestone bedrock can be very dense in certain areas and maintenance on the trencher and other construction equipment is an unfortunate necessity that often results in delays. That being said, at the rate the construction company is excavating we hope to finalize construction of the wastewater treatment system by mid- April, 2014.
With the eventual completion fo the wastewater treatment system now in sight, Fuentes de Vida has begun making plans to begin working on the potable water and solid waste management (trash) elements of the Fuentes de Vida project. Since the last report we have had meetings with Engineers Without Borders, (EWB),-with the aim of creating a centralized potable water system for the community of Domingo Maíz. We are currently drafting preliminary agreements to begin fundraising for this work.
While FDV has initiated construction the wastewater component of the project the larger initiative still needs your help. Please continue supporting this project with your donations.
Since the last report was published in July 2013 the Puntacana Ecological Foundation and its project partners made a tremendous push to raise funds from a variety granting organizations and fundraisers to finance the construction of the wastewater treatment system. This portion of the Fuentes de Vida initiative is the necessary precursor to the potable water system and securing access to clean drinking water. With each member of the Fuentes de Vida project team including the Peace Corps, the Punta Cana Bavaro Rotary Club, the community of Domingo Maiz, and of course, the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, collaborating to raise funds from a number of different sources we were able to secure the necessary funds to complete the constructed wetlands water treatment system.
Funding was secured from several granting organizations including: Adventures of the Mind Foundation, USAID’s Small Program Assistance (SPA), Peace Corps Partnership Program, and most notably Positive Legacy. Additional funding was also raised through a generous benefit dinner hosted by the Puntacana Resort & Club with Iron Chef Geoffrey Zacharian preparing a special meal for the donors. Although small compared to the project’s total cost every dollar raised on Global Giving was a tremendous help in advancing the initiative and the Global Giving Fuentes de Vida project page also provides an invaluable forum, which the above groups and individuals were able to reference when considering their support of the project.
Moving forward we are currently receiving bids from contractors to excavate the constructed wetland treatment area and the sewerage (collection) system as well. The Response Peace Corps Volunteer, an engineering specialist with decades of experience developing wastewater and potable water systems all over the world, who helped finalize the system designs and budget earlier in 2013, has returned to the Dominican Republic and is assisting in organizing all of the necessary preparations. We expect to break ground in the next few weeks and are planning on hosting a brief ceremony to inaugurate the project.
As for this Global Giving page we ask that any and all potential donors continue to consider this project for their donations as we still need your help in raising the necessary funds for the potable water and integrated waste management systems. As we mentioned in the project overview section of this page the mission of Fuentes de Vida is to provide community-wide solutions to the most elemental environmental concerns of Domingo Maiz: providing safe drinking water, successfully treating its wastewater, and implementing an integrated solid waste management program to avoid trash collecting in the streets.
The potable water section of the project contemplates implementing a centralized community-wide aqueduct system that will affect the same area as the wastewater treatment system. The well would be equipped with a submersible pump and operate approximately 19 hours per day. The water will be chlorinated as it is pumped into the system ensuring that it is safe for bathing and consumption. The waste management portion of FDV includes purchasing an initial round of 15, 55-gallon, trash containers to be disbursed throughout the community every 200 feet, or 61 meters, as suggested by the community. The neighborhood association of Domingo Maiz is beginning to negotiate with the municipality’s waste hauling company, to establish pick-up times, locations and days for the collection of the community’s garbage. Once this is established the trash cans can be installed throughout the community.
In short, there remains a lot of work to be done and your continued support is crucial to the long term success of the initiative. On behalf of the community of Domingo Maiz and the rest of the Fuentes de Vida project team we would sincerely like to the thank the donors who have so generously supported the project to date and we kindly ask that you continue to support the potable water and solid waste management portions of the initiative . We will be submitting exciting pictures and reports as we begin to break ground and implement the first phase of the Fuentes de Vida project.
Thanks to the multitude of jobs created by the area's tourism industry, Veron has become one of the main points of migration in the Dominican Republic. While this has been a boom for the area economically, the transitory nature of much of Veron's population presents unique challenges for community development initiatives. This summer the Puntacana Ecological Foundation hosted two timely and in depth university studies in order to better understand these constantly changing communal dynamics in Domingo Maiz before the Fuentes de Vida project breaks ground. First, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) with the help of the Peace Corps realized a detailed community health analysis from May 5 - 12. The survey was developed by Gallop Poll to investigate a broad range of key social and health indicators such as: education, family dynamics, employment history, recent health history as well as communal environmental issues. The survey built upon previous studies executed by Save the Children in different barrios throughout Veron in 2009. The results of the study are being compiled into a final report which will then be shared with the Neighborhood Association of Domingo Maiz by early Fall 2013. This study will serve as a "before" snapshot which will then be followed up with another study after the system has been completed to see if the newly implemented sanitation systems have a quantifiably positive impact on the residents' health - if so then Domingo Maiz could truly serve as a model community for the larger municipality.
The second university study was executed by Virginia Tech's Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE). The Fuentes de Vida project was originally inspired by a 2011 CEE ground water contamination study, which led CEE professors John Novak and Mark Widdowson to recommend the constructed wetland sewage treatment system as an effective vehicle for stemming the flow of effluent water into the community's water source. Since then CEE has continued to be a crucial partner, consulting on every aspect of the Fuentes de Vida project and returning every summer to continue their studies on well water contamination in Veron. Their annual work has produced the most complete database currently available to the community of Veron and the Puntacana Ecological Foundation by identifying contamination hotspots that pose health risks to the residents of Veron. This year's studies examined contaminant levels over time as water is pumped form the well to observe if contamination rates decreased as theoretically cleaner water is drawn from deeper in the aquifer. As with all of its community studies the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, along with the aid of Peace Corps volunteers, communicate the results of these studies back to the community members and well owners as soon as the reports are finalized. The final goal of these studies is not only to better inform the Fuentes de Vida project but to also better educate the community members about potential environmental/health risks in their communities.
In other news, the magazine Good Company recently wrote a piece about Fuentes de Vida and sent down two photographers to document the community and the project. The issue is available now in Barnes and Noble bookstores. Also in recent months, all members of the Fuentes de Vida project have put forward a great effort to raise funds for the construction of the constructed wetland treatment system through grants, fundraisers and awareness campaigns. The community of Domingo Maiz has made it their goal to raise enough money to begin construction before the end of the calendar year, which means your help and contributions via Global Giving could make a huge difference for 500 residents in Domingo Maiz.
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