Water Purification Campaign Experience In Gonaives, Haiti

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Article · January 2013
1 author:
Marcos Giai
Universidad Juan Agustín Maza
All content following this page was uploaded by Marcos Giai on 22 December 2015.
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10 MCIF 1/2013
Looking at Haiti and the disasters this
country has suffered (Hurricane Jeanne –
2004, Earthquake – 2010), the military
forces involved in the stabilization mission (MINUSTAH), the permanent reengineering of its establishments, and adapting to the new impending humanitarian
situations, let us consider one single,
albeit very important aspect of humanitarian aid: drinking water.
This paper shows the effectiveness of
the process of water purification in
adverse situations and health emergencies,
through the purification process control
and routine checks on the quality of
treated water. Showing further that the
purification process used in Haiti is to use
environmentally safe disposal of water
purification plant as irrigation water by
the afforestation facility of the deployed
Argentinian Battaillon (ARGBAT).
On 30 April 2004, the Security Council
of the United Nations, through Resolution
1542, authorized the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to support the
political transition process, organize Haitian Police (HNP) and demobilize armed
groups operating in the country.
To assist this mission, Argentina de ployed a joint Argentine Battalion (ARGBAT) in the area of responsibility of
Gonaives, Artibonite Department, located
at 19° 27'N, 72° 42'W.
The Gonaives particular geographical
environment presents a mountainous and
arid, low tropical vegetation area that has
undergone years of deforestation, consequently leading to desertification, erosion
and loss of arable land.
The average annual mean temperature is
27° C, with minimum 18° C and maximum of up to 42°C in the summer.
The average annual rainfall is 508 millimeters, recording a period of increased
rainfall between the months of June to
September. In this period, torrential rains
are common that may become tropical
Water Purification Campaign Experience
in Gonaives, Haiti
The experience of producing drinkable water in an unfavorable campaign environment, as that of Gonaives (Haiti) and getting
excellent results in terms of quality of treated water, is the sum of continuous adaptation and improvement of intermediate
purification processes, from improving the acquisition to remineralization of water filtered by reverse osmosis.
Fig. 1: Aerial view of Gonaives (ARGBAT).
11MCIF 1/2013
storms or hurricanes, with winds gusting
up to 120 kilometers per hour.
The nature of this particular climate
coupled with high average temperatures
causes people living in this environment
increased loss of water and salts through
excessive sweating, thereby increasing
water consumption per capita to above
four to five liters per day.
Sufficient uptake of water and the
purification of it by different methods
present, is a serious problem in the city of
Gonaives, mainly due to high salt levels in
the ground water as result of the proximity to the sea and the mountainous terrain
as well as of contamination by poor
health infrastructure of the city.
Under the supervision of the organization responsible for the provision of drinking water, National Service d'Eau Potable SNEP, the city has three collection wells
with a capacity of 200 cubic meters each
and 18 meters deep, which date from the
beginning of the year 1980. The analysis
of the water network of Gonaives showed
elevated levels of total alkalinity, calcium
carbonate and calcium hardness, besides
presenting growth of pathogenic bacteria,
perhaps due to poor disinfection processes
– there were no residual values of Chlorine.
The ARGBAT is located in the city of
Gonaives, in the former premises of a textile plant, the "Cotton Camp", using as a
water source a thirty feet deep cartesian
well at the property site.
From August 2004 until now ARGBAT
produced from "raw water" the substrate
of the purification process and water conditioning including the biochemical control of these processes under the responsibility of the Water Section of the
Argentine Army Engineers.
The "raw water" from the well presented – as in the rest of the city – high
levels of dissolved salts such as calcium
carbonate, sulfate and chloride in relation
to standards established by the Argentine
Food Code for the quality of drinking
The purpose of this study was a retrospective analysis of chemical and bacteriological values of treated water in Gonaives
in relation to geography and climate,
ensuring the efficiency of water treatment
processes, product quality and safety proving the plants efficiency in the of "discard
Overview of water treatment system
The Water Group of ARGBAT has established and is operating a water purification plant where "raw water" is captured
from a Cartesian well (1) and pumped
through pipes to the pillow tank with a
capacity of 20 000 liters (2). Here, the
water receives a first treatment with
hypochlorite disinfectant sodium in a
concentration greater than 1 part per million (1,0 ppm), left to stand for several
hours before being pumped to the treatment plant GAT® (3) where chlorinated
sodium metabisulfite is added which
removes excess descaline chlorine, and a
solution which eliminates the precipitates
of calcium, magnesium and silica. Then
the water passes the filter train consisting
of cyclonic membrane filters, the first with
a porosity of 20 microns and second of 5
microns, finally entering a column of activated carbon which removes organic
material leaving chlorine. The filtered
water is temporarily stored in a pillow
tank with the capacity of 12 000 liters (4)
then to be pumped to the reverse osmosis
plant Vial Este® (5) which has a filtering
capacity of 3 000 liters per hour and a discard residual of 50 %.
Finally, the demineralized water is pH
adapted to the final concentration of chlorine with an injector (6) and then stored
or distributed to the drinking water network (7).
The samples were taken aseptically
using standardized sampling methods in
polystyrene containers sterilized with ethylene oxide to be processed immediately
in the ARGBAT Water Laboratory. Sampling periods are 3 – 4 days, as is recommended according to the rate of consumption and population served.
Sampling locations were: drinking water
holding tanks, the base well and the floor
drain of the mineralizing process. The following analysis and analytical methods
were used:
n pH: portable pH meter HANNA® HI8915 BNC-Gel electrode combined HI1230B.
n Temperature: digital thermometer built
into the previous device.
n Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and Conductivity meter with portable HANNA®
HI TDSmetro-8033 HI-76301W electrode.
n Residual chlorine: colorimetric kit
HANNA® HI-38 018 based on the
method of diethyl-p-phenylenediamine
(DPD) and colorimetry parallel with
solution of o-toluidine 0.1 %.
n Total Hardness Calcium carbonate:
HANNA® HI-3812 kit, based on a complexometric titration with EDTA.
n Total alkalinity to calcium carbonate:
HANNA® HI-3811, based on a titration
with hydrochloric acid.
n Chlorides: GAT® kit, based on a titration
with silver nitrate.
n Sulfates: HANNA® kit - HI 38000, measured by turbidimetry with barium chloride.
n Iron: HANNA® kit - HI 3834, based on
complexometric-fenantroina colorimetry.
n Nitrates: HANNA® - HI3874 kit, measured by colorimetry.
▲ Fig. 2: Outline ARGBAT Purification System.
12 MCIF 1/2013
n Nitrite: AQUANALITICA® commercial
kit, based on a technique of diazotization-coupling.
Bacteriological analyses were performed
by the method of filtration of cellulose
nitrate membrane 47 mm in diameter and
0.45 micron porosity (Osmonics®) by vacuum filtration on laptop polycarbonate filter (Sartorius® 16510) with hand vacuum
pump (Mityvac Silverline® pump). Filtered
100 mL of water sampled by each cultured
medium, said membranes were incubated
24 hours at 37° C in the following culture
n Total aerobic colony count: ML-112
commercial medium MicroTech®.
n Total Coliform count: commercial
medium-Endo Broth MICROTECH ML116®.
n Colony count of Pseudomonas aeruginosa: commercial medium Cetrimide
The bacterial growth for total aerobic
count was expressed in colony forming
units per milliliter (CFU/mL) and in the
absence of bacterial growth or other media
for cultivation, all referred to 100 ml of
All average chemical parameters tested
were within the restrictions established by
the Argentine Food Code for the quality of
drinking water, except for just one sample
(0.60 %) which was chemically unfit for
human consumption. the results did not
show a significant seasonal variability.
On the bacteriological quality of water,
only 2.78% of the samples showed a faster
growth than the limit established by the
Argentine Food Code (200 CFU/mL) for
total aerobic bacterial count, the same percentage was seen in the growth of coliform bacteria; in this case the selection
criterion is given by the absence of growth
in the culture medium.
In summary, 99.4 % of the samples analyzed were chemically suitable for human
consumption, 97.2 % also bacteriologically.
The present results demonstrate the efficiency of the water purification process in
Gonaives, Haiti, since a high percentage of
the samples tested in the study (approx.
98%), were fit for human consumption, as
determined by Argentine Food Code.
The variability in the results of analysis
of pH, TDS and chlorine residual, very
related values of the purification process,
coincides with the periods of turnover of
the water treatment plant operator, which
is determined with the semiannual relay
of the ARGBAT contingent. During the
first weeks of "adaptation" to the treatment plant more heterogeneous results are
observed, which are corrected within the
next weeks to be included within the
expected parameters.
Chemical and bacteriological characteristics of raw water are maintained without
showing large seasonal variations. The
only alterations of these values occurred
after Hurricane Jeanne (September 2004),
which, like the rest of the city of
Gonaives, flooded the ARGBAT-1 facilities,
affecting the quality of water from the
base well.
Given these potential “threats”, it
would be important to add to the battery
of tests to be performed on the "raw water"
the determination of turbidity. Thie
remaining at low levels seems a guarantee
of effective disinfection and also of reducing the toxic substance vehiculization.
Furthermore high turbidity values can
lead to underestimation of bacterial count
and disable the filtration membranes.
There is a correlation between the turbidity and total coliform count, so that
the determination of the first would be a
qualitative indicator of the risk of microbiological contamination of the well, and
also of the presence of Giardia lamblia
cysts, which in our purification process are
removed in the pre-chlorination stage
wherein chlorine concentrations greater
than 0.60 parts per million (ppm) eliminate parasite cysts.
Regarding the quality of the effluent
treatment plant (water Equipment), while
presenting a high degree of chemically
dissolved salts being rejected through the
reverse osmosis demineralization plant,
bacteriologically contaminants remain in
the residual water presenting non
pathogen aerobic colony growth which
are not eliminated since not receiving any
disinfectant treatment. This remaining
water is used to irrigate newly forested
areas of ARGBAT.
To my friends and fellow military engineers Carlos Grossi and Ricardo Taborda
(in memorial). n
▲ Fig. 3: Water Laboratory ARGBAT.
Major Biochemist
Dr Marcos Giai
Head of Education and Research –
Regional Military Hospital Mendoza,
1990 – 1994: Biochemist National
University of Córdoba
1996: Joined Argentine Army as
Lieutenant Biochemist. Campo de Mayo
Military Hospital
2001: Head of Laboratory - Engineer
Battalion 9, Rio Mayo
2004: Clinical Laboratory Service –
Campo de Mayo Military Hospital
2005: Specialization in Environmental
Preservation – EST, Buenos Aires
2006: Head of Laboratory of Water
2008: Teaching General Chemistry –
Faculty of Engineering – Universidad
Since 2011: Head of Teaching and
Research Division of the Regional Military
Hospital Mendoza
Address of the author:
E-mail: marcosgiai@hotmail.com
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