An interdisciplinary research project by three Grand Valley professors could improve the quality of drinking water for rural Haitians.
The trio of Peter Wampler, associate professor of geology; Azizur Molla, assistant professor of anthropology; and Rick Rediske, professor of water resources, traveled to Haiti in May to collect water samples and interview residents.
Wampler said they visited 60 homes near Deschapelles, roughly three hours west of Port-au-Prince. Reaching some homes meant an hour-long drive on steep roads followed by a long hike through mountainous terrain. Some of the Haitians they interviewed said they treat their drinking water with chlorine tablets or bleach, others use water filters, but most are not currently treating their water. Drinking unfiltered water can lead to cholera and other diseases.
This project is a link between natural science and social science, as the factors contributing to poor water quality in Haiti involve both physical and cultural components, according to Rediske.
Molla explained that this project will continue after the water quality analysis is complete. “This will not end with publication of the results. We’re going to try to develop and implement sustainable water quality interventions,” he said.
The researchers agreed there will not be one solution. Wampler said he would like to see Haitians trained, within their community, to help their neighbors use water filters or other treatments correctly. “The Haitians haven’t been able to participate in the solution to this problem,” he said. “Having locally trained people with the expertise to help would be a good model to put into place.”
Wampler said the results will be shared with Haitian officials and others providing safe water solutions there.
The researchers received an interdisciplinary grant from Grand Valley’s Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence for this project, with additional support from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Padnos International Center. The interviews were videotaped and documented by a graduate student, Renato Delos Reyes.
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