2012 Beraca Assessment and Monitoring Trip

In May 2012, one year after the construction of the water tower, the UMKC Chapter and the Kansas City Professional Chapters of EWB returned to Kilometer 6 to investigate the operating problems with the water pump and to complete the water distribution system so that the plumbing in the school could be hooked up, and to investigate ways to improve the sewage system so that it is able to serve the school population. On the first day of investigation it was determined that the already weak power grid in the area is overwhelmed by illegal taps so that even when the power was turned on by the electric company, the grid only supplies about 60 volts of power at the pump. Standard voltage is 120 volts which are required for standard lighting and to allow the pump to operate. COAAROM recognized this and had installed a power booster (a transformer that works in reverse) to boost the voltage so their pump would run. Unfortunately, the booster is not capable of adjusting when the power grid delivers more than the 60 volts and there is a good chance the pump has been damaged during periods of normal voltage as a result.

With a new understanding of the problem, the EWB group revised their plans and priorities and again recruited help from the professional chapter in Kansas City to finalize an electrical design for a new power supply to the site. A design had been started during the past year with plans to complete it using information that was gathered on this trip. Danny Perez supplied a local electrical engineer and electrician to help evaluate the problems and assist with the accelerated design. These two skilled technicians donated the majority of their time, making it possible to negotiate with the power company, procure materials, and install a new service in the week that the team was in La Romana. The new service included a new transformer, and supply cables installed in conduit and/or buried to new power panels in the church and school. The existing wiring had all been installed on the surface and was exposed with much of the insulation either deteriorated or stripped to allow connections for sound systems in the church and for the supplies to the guard house and school. The existing wiring with damaged insulation created a serious safety risk now that there was a large new student population on the site.

Improvements were made to the class room lighting circuits and covers installed on receptacles to protect the students, but the electric system is still far from complete and the new system has not resolved all of the problems with the pump, which may have been damaged beyond repair. EWB is working with the other volunteer groups who visit the site regularly to address some of these problems and resolve them as quickly as possible.

The Kansas City Professional Chapter is currently evaluating providing a short term fix by installing solar power to supply the well pump and water system until the power grid is improved to the area. Plans also include installation of a diesel generator to supply power to the full site during periods of power outages. Other remaining work includes completion of a sustainable sewage system and assisting the Jean Luc Phanord Foundation to develop the administrative skills to operate and manage the utilities in a sustainable manner.

Last modified on Saturday, 24 November 2012 21:34
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