MIT’s Susan Murcott brings ceramic filters to Ghana

Posted by Abby Silver

This article is from MITnews:

In the World: A long haul to bring clean water to developing nations

MIT’s Susan Murcott expands ceramic-filter production to three continents, bringing jobs and curbing disease. David L. Chandler, MIT News Office

ghana

Pure Home Water has reached more than 100,000 poor rural women, children, and families with safe drinking water via ceramic pot filters produced at a factory in Tamale, Ghana. Photo courtesy of the researcher.

 

December 10, 2013

“It’s been a long, hard slog,” says Susan Murcott, a senior lecturer in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, describing her efforts to disseminate water-filtration systems to some three million people in northern Ghana. About half of these people presently lack access to a reliable supply of clean drinking water. But after nine years of efforts by Murcott and her students, the project has begun to make a difference.

Factories that produce these locally sourced, clay-pot filters — originally invented by Fernando Mazariengas of Guatemala and since improved and widely disseminated by Murcott and others — have already been built at 52 locations in 31 countries, she says, with the newest of these factories in Guatemala, Uganda, South Africa, and China. So far, the Ghana factory, built in 2011 and reaching full production last year, has provided sustainable, safe drinking water to more than 100,000 people in that country’s impoverished, rural northern sector. In January, 10 MIT students will work there to help expand production and monitor outcomes.

The filters — made with a mixture of local clays and precisely sieved, combustible material, such as rice husks — have been shown to reduce microbial contamination in water by 98 percent, leading to a more than two-thirds decrease in diarrheal disease among families using them. The combustible material burns off when the clay is fired, leaving a network of tiny pores that serve to filter out sediment and microbes as water trickles through; the filter is further treated by the application of colloidal silver nanoparticles that have antimicrobial properties. One such filter can produce enough clean water daily to serve the needs of a large family.

Murcott and colleagues recently received grants from the government of Dubai, which will allow them to expand production and distribution in Ghana, Guatemala, and Nepal.

In addition to clean water, Murcott has worked to improve sanitation in Ghana, where most communities lack improved toilet facilities. Together with D-Lab student John Maher and Ghanaian volunteers, and with support from the MIT Public Service Center, she recently built a large latrine facility at a school in Taha, Ghana. The team will expand in January to a neighboring village, Gbalahi, which is seen as a critical step toward reducing preventable contagion.

About the size of New York state, “Ghana today has the fifth-worst rate of sanitation in the world,” Murcott says, citing United Nations statistics. Open defecation is common, especially in the poorer, rural northern parts of the country.

Murcott began her career designing innovations for large urban sanitation systems, such as the wastewater treatment plant on Boston’s Deer Island, but soon realized that the greatest need for sanitation lay in rural, poor regions or urban slums where such systems were unaffordable. She has since turned her attention to improving access to water, sanitation, and hygiene in developing nations.

But it’s been a hard road, she says: Everything has taken longer than expected, with difficulties in supply chains, communication — Ghana has more than 50 different languages — illiteracy, and poverty. The filtration systems produced by the factory Murcott’s company set up cost $10 to make, but are sold for $6 to the rural poor — still a steep price in a place where most people earn less than $1 a day. (Large agencies have sometimes paid full price and then given the filters away for free.)

But the country is politically stable, most people with a primary level of education speak some English, and “the people are really friendly and welcoming,” she says. “That’s what has kept me going back.”

Murcott says her commitment to the production of these filters in Ghana over the last nine years has been driven by two things: maintaining trust with the people of that region and the project’s impact on MIT students — roughly 125 of whom have traveled to Ghana. “Part of the reason I do this work,” she says, “is I like to see students have their worlds blown open, to have them realize it’s a bigger world out there than just here.”

Read the original article here:  http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/long-haul-to-bring-clean-water-to-developing-nations-1210.html

PfP Reps attend the 2013 Water and Health Conference at UNC

Posted by Abby Silver

kairaIn October, Abby Silver, Robert Pillers and Kaira Wagoner represented Potters for Peace at the 2013 Water and Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy, hosted by the University of North Carolina. The conference was a good opportunity for networking with other Water Sanitation and Health (WaSH) practitioners.

At the Ceramic Water Filter (CWF) side event, PfP Filter Coordinator Kaira Wagoner made a presentation that was entitled Strategies for Improving the Ceramic Pot Filter: Sustainability, Production, Design and Communication. Kaira stressed that better communication is vital in order to

  1. facilitate the sharing of solutions to common production problems
  2. improve the reach of technical trouble-shooting by groups like Potters for Peace
  3. ensure that the right studies are being performed in academic settings and that the results of those studies are effectively disseminated in the field.

The session was attended by members of the Ceramics Manufacturing Working Group,  representatives of a number of NGOs, CWF factory owners, academics, and other stakeholders. Following four presentations, the group convened a round-table discussion.

A key outcome of this discussion was the decision to form a Google-Group Forum to facilitate communication between NGOs, producers, and academics. With this added tool for multidisciplinary communication, stakeholders can better work together to support efficient production of effective filters.

Young Artists Promote Clean Drinking Water & PFP

Posted by Abby Silver

A huge thank you to the members of the Briggs Elementary School art club in Florence South Carolina for their educational and fundraising efforts!  With the guidance of their art teacher, these 3rd to 6th graders chose to educate their community this year about the need for clean water and about Potters for Peace.  They made small pots and informational handouts to give out at their school family day, created an information table, and collected donations.

The students heard about Potters for Peace from their teacher, Laura McFadden, who heard about us a few years ago at a conference where PFP was included during presentations on art-related service organizations. She became a supporter and has often worn one of our t-shirts to school. During Art Club this year she presented several options for fundraising projects and the students were most excited about Potters for Peace.

Thanks to the kids for their hard work and thanks to Laura for raising awareness of the importance of artists working together to support each other.  We’re very proud of their efforts, and welcome them to the PFP family!

A young artist stands next to the information table.

A young artist stands next to the information table.

Potters for Peace welcomes new US Director

Posted by Patty Osborne

abby-and-peterAfter eight years of hard work, Peter Chartrand has stepped down from his post as US Director of Potters for Peace and we are happy to welcome Abby Silver, a potter from Boulder, Colorado, to the position.

Abby was a production potter for many years and now works on large public art pieces. She has travelled extensively and has worked as both an employee and a volunteer with several community organizations. She is also a long-time supporter of Potters for Peace. We are confident that her skills and energy will be valuable assets for our organization.

Peter Chartrand will continue his filter work with Potters for Peace but please direct all inquiries, both about filters and on other matters, to abby@pottersforpeace.org and Abby will send them on to the appropriate Potters for Peace people.

At this time we would like to thank Peter for his hard work and dedication as the US “point person” for Potters for Peace and we look forward to working with him in future Ceramic Water Filter projects. Peter will remain a vibrant part of PfP in our filter program.

Abby’s full contact information is:
Potters for Peace
PO Box 2214
Boulder CO 80306
303-442-1253

Potters for Peace Presents at UNC Water and Health Conference

Posted by Kaira Wagoner

Potters for Peace (PfP) members Robert Pillers, Reynaldo Diaz and Kaira Wagoner showed off their ceramic weapons of mass bacterial destruction at the UNC Water and Health conference in Chapel Hill, NC last week (October 29-November 2).  Joining over 100 experts on water, sanitation and health, PfP learned and shared with the best in the field.  PfP contributed with a poster presentation, an oral presentation and a live filter demonstration… not to mention the countless lively discussions regarding filter production, quality control, and the way forward.

We are excited about where the filter is headed, and proud of our contribution thus far.  With a small budget, PfP has helped establish around 40 factories in 28 countries in just 14 years!  With your support, we can keep up the good, hard work.  Thanks to all those who have helped us get this far.  Ron PRESENTE!

Filters and rope-pumps sure do look good together! From left to right: Reynaldo Diaz, PfP, holding filter; Wanja Wambugu, Chujio Ceramics; Robert Pillers, PfP; Kaira Wagoner, PfP, holding mini filter; Henk Holtslag, 300in6, holding rope pump.

Filters and rope-pumps sure do look good together! From left to right: Reynaldo Diaz, PfP, holding filter; Wanja Wambugu, Chujio Ceramics; Robert Pillers, PfP; Kaira Wagoner, PfP, holding mini filter; Henk Holtslag, 300in6, holding rope pump.

Tanzanian Filter Factory Receives National Honor

Posted by Patty Osborne
Bruno Sanga explains the manufacturing process.

Bruno Sanga explains the manufacturing process.

The Tanzanian NGO known as MSABI ( Maji Safi Kwa Afya Bora  or Safe Water for Better Health) is pleased to announce that their water filter project was honoured at the 2012 National Uhuru Torch run, which celebrates freedom and light. The torch event was held in Ifakara at the Jongo Primary School on Sunday the 15th of July. MSABI received significant attention, and a large crowd arrived as MSABI office manager Hija Choya provided a project history and a general overview of MSABI activities. This was followed by our pottery manager, Mr Bruno Sanga, who explained the manufacturing process. Government officials were impressed with the filter pot and the quality of filtered water. MSABI ran out of pamphlets, and received dozens of requests for filter purchases. The Tembo Filter will sell for TZS17,000 (AUD $10.75) and includes a tap, cleaning brush and instruction sheet.

The filter fits into a standard 20L water collection bucket, and there is also a special 30L bucket that can be purchased separately. The women’s pottery group has also produced a prototype clay receptacle which will store around 50L and sell for around TZS10,000 (AUD $6.25). We already have an inventory of 250 pots ready for release and expect to have between 400-500 ready for August 8th (“nane nane”) an important public holiday for Tanzanians. The facility will have capacity to manufacture 250-300 filters each month. Distribution will be through local retailers who will purchase wholesale (TZS13,000) from the pottery factory. Filters will also be sold direct to the public from the filter factory at the retail price (TZS17,000). We are busy preparing marketing materials and are excited to finally (after 3 long years) releasing our local product for the benefit of the local community.

MSABI is a medium- sized NGO that works in rural Tanzania on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects.

Potters for Peace work in South Africa

Posted by Kaira Wagoner

Potters for Peace consultant Peter Chartrand is currently working on a filter project in the Limpopo province of South Africa. The project is based at the Mokondini Women’s Pottery Cooperative, which is collaborating with both the University of Virginia and South African University of Venda. The pottery group just fired the reconstructed kiln which has a 70-filter capacity. The firing was a big success, with even temperatures throughout and filter flow rates averaging 1.9 l/h (1-2.5 l/h being the acceptable range.)

Abstract Accepted for 2012 Water and Health Conference

Posted by Kaira Wagoner

This October Potters for Peace members Robert Pillers, Reynaldo Diaz and Kaira Wagoner will give a poster presentation at the 2012 Water and Health Conference: Science, Policy and Innovation.  This is the second year that Potters for Peace has participated in the North Carolina-based conference.  In 2011, the conference  pulled in water and sanitation experts from over 30 countries.  An even bigger turnout is expected this year, with keynote speakers such as Bai Mass Taal, Executive Secretary of the African Ministers Council on Water, and Tessie San Martin, CEO and Director of Plan International USA. To learn more about the conference go to http://whconference.unc.edu/.  

Ceramic water filter: almost a conspiracy?

Posted by Patty Osborne

Here’s a different take on our water filters. Some misinformation but at least he makes us smile.


Not sure that this fellow will be able to find a local pottery shop to make him an unglazed flower pot without the hole in the middle that he can use as a water filter, but he’s correct in his evaluation of the best qualities of ceramic water filters: they’re effective and inexpensive to make.