Louisville-based non-profit WaterStep has been working to provide safe water and health education to communities in Haiti since 2007. And for the past two years, the organization has worked to develop a new product – a portable bleach maker that can generate powerful disinfectant on demand. When the impoverished nation took a direct hit from the category 4 hurricane last month, WaterStep was ready to act. Six of WaterStep’s recently developed portable bleach makers have been shipped to their in-country Haitian partners to be used in hospitals and medical clinics treating displaced refugees in the area of Jeremie. More bleach makers will be sent later this month.
Using water, salt and a 12-volt car battery, the bleach maker uses a process called electrolysis to create sodium hypochlorite, more commonly known as chlorine bleach. Bleach is used to sanitize hospitals and medical clinics and to disinfect cooking areas, cooking equipment and clothing. The device has already been field-tested in countries around the world including Kenya, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Uganda and in Ecuador following the devastating earthquake last April.
The critical need for a simple and portable bleach maker became increasingly apparent when WaterStep received a request from organization Project Hope during the Ebola outbreak in 2014. The concept was further developed at Hack2o 2014, a hack-a-thon hosted by WaterStep and FirstBuild to create solutions to the world water crisis. WaterStep volunteers Frank Diebold, David Mekus and Dr. Joe Jacobi led a group of others from UofL, Louisville Water Company and General Electric’s First Build Innovation Center, who worked together to develop a very powerful disinfectant tool.
Since 2007, nearly 100 of WaterStep’s M-100 water chlorinators have already been installed in Haiti. The M-100, which was developed by WaterStep with the help of volunteer engineers from General Electric (GE) and the Louisville Water Company, is a water chlorinator small enough to fit in a backpack, yet powerful enough to provide safe water for thousands of people each day.
WaterStep’s M-100 is currently deployed in more than 30 countries around the world. To support WaterStep’s work in disaster situations like Haiti, visit www.waterstep.org or call (502) 568-6342.