More than a month after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, a third of residents are still without drinking water. But a Tri-State water technology non-profit is working to lower those numbers by bringing in purification equipment and training people twice a day.
Louisville-based WaterStep is a member of Greater Cincinnati's Confluence, a collaboration to establish the region as a global leader in sustainable, environmental and technology innovation with an initial emphasis on water.
CEO Mark Hogg was in Puerto Rico for weeks and set up at a church. "The conditions are just horrific. There's no water sources for people. We've seen people getting water from street rivulets. We've seen people getting water from anywhere that they can and of course that water is not safe to use," he says.
Some residents are still drinking from ojos de agua, basically PVC pipes carrying water from nearby streams. There are also reports of people climbing fences to drink well water from a federal hazardous waste site.
The non-profit WaterStep developed an emergency purification unit that was deployed in Tibet during the earthquake there and other places. The U.S. EPA and Homeland Security are interested in the technology.
The unit uses chlorine gas to circulate throughout the water.
He says, "With the tools that we have, they can sanitize large amounts of safe water at one time, up to 55 gallons per minute and this allows emergency workers to be able to manufacture tremendous amounts of water when they are working with people and community leaders to do that for their community."
Hogg brought nearly two dozen units and says the idea is for the Puerto Rican government to buy more.