Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Making Up For Lost Time

We arrived in Bafoussam Monday night, after a 4 hour very uncomfortable bus ride.  Erica ended up sitting in a Economy Minus (a wooden box in the aisle with an armrest in each kidney).  I have never been so close (physically) with one of my advisers   Needless to say this was a great sacrifice for Dr. Steve since there was no water at our hotel and I hadn't showered in a couple days.  We were picked up by George Takam, a local chief, who helped us find some much needed dinner before taking us back to Bakang.  Upon arrival in Bamendjou we found out there was also no running water there, so showers had to wait another day.

Despite the delayed start for this trip, things are moving along nicely.  Today was our first day on site, and we spent much of the day taking stock of all the borehole and wet well pumping systems.  We were very pleased to see that the all of the borehole systems were functioning as expected, with all tanks filling each day, despite the dry season.

Unfortunately only one of the wet well/lift systems was working, which meant that the ferrocement tank was not filling fast enough to keep pace with demand from the gravity fed distribution system.  This problem has become more pronounced recently.  Due to the dry season and municipal water shortages in Bamendjou, many people had been travelling to the edge of Bakang to get water from the system we had installed.  On one hand, it was encouraging that the system was so well known and trusted for safe drinking water.  The downside is that there has been additional demand from a userbase that has little invested in the system.

We also inspected the 20000L ferrocement tank, plumbing, and various tap-stands.  The ferrocement tank is in great condition, and will only require a minor modification which will allow for easy changing of the float switches, without draining the tank so somebody can climb in it.

Based on some initial evaluations we determined that the wet well at the Balatsit crossroads was completely non-functioning due to a faulty controller which had been exposed to direct sunlight and has been suspect since the last implementation trip.  At Bakang 2 the wet well was functioning sporadically, but apparently correctly.  However there was no read out or status information on the CU-200 controller and internal diagnostics indicate the controller is at least partially faulty.  The wet well at the Bakang 1 crossroads was functioning exactly as expected.  Tomorrow we will attempt to confirm that the controllers are the faulty component by substituting in working controllers

Testing electrical connections in the pump controller
One observation we made, which has been made before, is that the controllers are very popular nests for insects.  We removed bee/hornet nests from every controller we opened.  I also spent an hour in the afternoon attempting to clean "insect glue" off the circuit boards of old controllers using alcohol.  While we may not get a complete working controller, hopefully there will be some spare parts.  Quarterly cleaning of the controllers will need to be part of the recommended quarterly maintenance.

While I was cleaning the rest of the team went to Baffoussam to pick up some supplies.  Wire was purchased, along with some reducers for the specially selected push taps that Dr Steve found.  Felix, the plumber, and Felix the driver, have both been very helpful through all of this.  Dr Steve picked up an overpriced Union Jack towel to use in the now working shower.  Mike and Erica grabbed some local fabric which we later delivered to the local seamstress.  Later in Bamendjou attempted to send an email to my roommates, but was foiled by a power cut right as I was signing my email.  Going forward, all correspondence will be prepared ahead of time on a laptop.

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