Implementation trip completed!

Hello from New York!

The August/September Usalama travel team is back from Kenya and (almost) readjusted to life back here in NYC. Our implementation trip complete, and it’s time to look back at what we did on the ground in Usalama and what work remains to be done.

Our last blog post left off with Claire, Marc, and Patrick in Usalama as the final wave of engineers. Before they left the community on September 27th, the team was able to make strides toward our final design vision:

- We measured, cut, bent, and tied together more than 100 pieces (almost 1,000 individual hand-tied connections) of 8-millimeter and 10-millimeter steel rebar in order to assemble the framework of the new tank’s robust roof. Some of our community help had experience tying rebar for high rises in Nairobi – so we had help improving our technique!

- The masons finished laying the stone courses for the wall and center column of the tank and plastered all interior and exterior surfaces to prevent water permeation, which can cause rusting of the rebar and eventual cracking of the tank.


- The masons erected a figurative forest of formwork within the new tank, using it to hold up the framing needed to cast and support the roof’s concrete and steel.

- The masons and team lifted the rebar cages into position on the the roof of the tank – a more than 8 foot distance that was conquered by using notched wooden poles and a few very strong hands on the roof.


- The Usalama community mobilized and came together to hand-dig about a kilometer of trenches – not an easy task due to the hard, clayey soil present in the village. Once the trenches were complete, we laid and connected a network of 2” PVC and galvanized iron piping, tying the new tank into the existing system.

-Marc and a local pipe-fitter named Emanuel assembled the elbows, unions, tees, and extenders needed for all of the new tank’s inlets and outlets, securing all connections with teflon tape in order to prevent leaks.

- On our final day on site, the concrete pouring operation was in full swing. An assembly line made the process faster – as new batches of concrete were being mixed on the ground, the complete mixes were being placed into buckets, lifted onto the tank scaffolding, and handed to the masons on the roof. The EWB team got their hands dirty while also making sure that the concrete mixes were workable without being too wet.

- Though the concrete was still wet, the completed tank had a professional look. The team, masons, and particularly important community members (Jackson and Priscilla!) went out to a celebratory dinner of noma choma, chapati, ugali, and a variety of cooked greens.

We left Usalama with the major pieces in place for a working water distribution system. However, we know that work remains before the project can be called complete:

- Water testing done at the end of the trip showed that E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria are very common in Usalama’s water, and also showed that adding a small amount of disinfectant can render them harmless. The community is in touch with a regional water organization and attempting to find a bulk source of chlorine, to make the kiosk-based disinfection process as cost-effective as possible.

- The community is also applying for a visit from the Kenya Power Authority, which will hopefully be on site in the next month to route electricity from the highway to Kiosk 1. This will provide the power needed to run an electric booster pump, filling the new tank each night until the government completes a nearby pressurized water line. Once that operation is complete, the pump can be salvaged and the funds used for system maintenance.

For now, the team is pleased with the progress made but also driven to move further forward. Plans are in the works for the fundraising needed to possibly visit Usalama for pump installation, and we are drawing together as-built plans, work logs, and photos from the trip in order to produce a complete report on our implementation operation.


Stay tuned, and thanks for the support!

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