How I learned to make pure drinking water

Copyrighted by Don Chesnut, 2005

The good people at Hunter Presbyterian Church, Lexington, Kentucky, thought I might be interested in volunteer work to help make pure drinking water for people in need. Many millions of people die every year from water-borne illnesses, so I knew this was important. They signed me up for a course at Clean Water U. in Mississippi in order that I might learn how to do this, and that they might learn more about this program too. Basically, Clean Water U. teaches people how to train poor communities throughout the world to make their own pure water for drinking. It. is a training facility developed by Living Waters for the World at Camp Hopewell, near Oxford, Mississippi.

I was registered to attend the 20-24 September 2005 session. Oxford is a long drive from Lexington, so I started 19 September and stayed the night at Memphis, Tennessee. Several people told me about the Peabody Hotel and Beale Street in downtown Memphis, so I checked these out when I got there.

19 September, Tuesday

After the long drive, I needed to relax, so I walked around downtown Memphis.

While walking, I passed a corner restaurant/bar called Flying Saucer. It was in the afternoon on a weekday, so there was no one else there at first. The Flying Saucer is a chain of about 11 restaurants. Their specialty is their extensive selection of crafted draft beer. Their menu lists well over 200 beers! They have samplers called "flights." I had the "Build-your-own flight" and got the bartender, Katie to pick out her favorites. You get five five-ounce glasses of great beer for a price of $6.50, which is a good buy. I had the Maredsous-8 from Belgium, John Courage Lager from Great Britain, Rogue Mexicali/Chipotle from the U.S., Rogue Shakespeare Stout from the U.S. and the Warsteiner from Germany. I didn't want to drink the beer on an empty stomach, so I ordered the Nacho Grande appetizer for $7.50. This was excellent. There were several varieties and it was more food than I had anticipated. I was trying to save room for a Memphis specialty, barbecued ribs. The following are pictures from the Flying Saucer.

I asked several people about their favorite barbecue restaurants. They all mentioned Blues City Cafe on Beale Street for wet ribs. It was close to the Flying Saucer, so I walked there. It was late in the afternoon, but the place was packed. I ordered the highly recommended wet ribs and I'm glad I did. They were so tender, the meat fell off the bones. They were hickory smoked and basted in a maple barbecue sauce and served with baked beans, steak fries, cole slaw and Texas toast. The half rack was $13.95. I didn't eat many of the sides because I was too full from the nachos. Those were good ribs.

After an early dinner, I walked to the Peabody Hotel, not far from the Flying Saucer and the Blues City Cafe. The Peabody is a well-known old hotel famous for the mallard ducks in the fountain. In the morning, the ducks come down the elevator from the duck penthouse and walk on a red carpet to the fountain. A small ramp is lowered and the ducks walk up the ramp and jump into the water. They stay in the fountain all day, being fed periodically. At five (I think), the whole process is reversed and the ducks walk back down the red carpet to the elevator, back up to their penthouse. The fountain area fills up with people waiting to see the duck parade. This area is a little dark, so if you go, take a good flash.

After checking out the Peadbody, I took a walk down Beale Street, famous for its Blues history.

20 September, Wednesday

In the morning I drove the remaining two hours to Oxford, Mississippi and Camp Hopewell. I was two hours early, my watch was still on Eastern Time and the registration was one hour later than I had thought. I walked around the camp and took the following photos.

Clean Water U. teaches three classes: 101 teaches team leadership, water testing and developing covenants or contracts with the locals; 102 teaches education about the importance of pure water and hygiene; 103 teaches how to set up a water purification station. This last course is the one I took. More about these classes can be found at the Clean Water U website.

After registration, those of us taking the 103 class boarded vehicles to drive about 1.5 miles on a gravel road in the woods to the water purification building. In the afternoon, we learned about the three different "boards" or systems, how to wire the outlets and breaker boxes, and take inventory of the kits. We were then divided into four groups, two to set up the Standard Board, one to set up the Softening Board (my group), and one to set up the Reverse Osmosis Board or RO Board. The Standard Board is the most widely used one and is designed for water that only needs to filtered and disinfected. The Softening Board is only used when the water is hard (contains too much Calcium, Magnesium or Iron) and would scale up the pipes and filters if not softened. The RO Board, the most complicated one, is only used where the water is brackish or contains metals. They are called Boards because the systems are mounted on plywood boards. Next, we started building our Boards from scratch. Did I mention that the temperature was in the upper 90's?

At night, a group got together at the Shelter House and played Bob Dylan, Neil Young and other pop music. I played my trusty Jaw Harps which can ruin any song.

21 September, Thursday

We worked all day Thursday and into the evening. Did I say it was in the upper 90's?

22 September, Friday

We worked Friday morning. After lunch, many of us took a tour of Oxford, as you can see in the following slides.

Ole Miss

William Faulkner's home

Downtown Oxford, a charming town, lots of book stores.

23 September, Saturday

We finished up our Boards Saturday morning and we had our group pictures made. In the early afternoon, the other classes toured our water purification stations and sampled our water. The following is an overview of the Boards.

The finished Boards

On Saturday afternoon, the remnants of Hurricane Rita came through. It started raining. I had some time off, so I went on a 3.5-mile perimeter hike around the camp. I came within 30 feet of a doe in the woods, before she bolted. I also saw the following...

That night the winds got pretty heavy and the rain continued. At about 12:30 AM, I was awakened in our cabin with the sound of a loud crash and thud. I knew a tree had fallen. I didn't sleep well because I was worried that a tree would fall on our cabin.

24 September, Sunday

The worst of the storm had passed, but the rain continued for the rest of the day.

After our certificates were given out and after our good-byes, I drove back to Memphis to spend the night. The next day, 25 September, I drove back to Lexington and the weather was fine.

5 October, Wednesday

I gave a PowerPoint presentation about my trip to Hunter Presbyterian Church (CleanWater.ppt, 43 Mb)

7 October, Friday

I gave the same presentation (but more technical) at the Kentucky Geological Survey Brown Bag Seminar