jump to navigation

From the Pantanal June 8, 2011

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Community, Design-Build-Test.
add a comment
BSF before paint job

BSF before we added bird paint.

We have an update!  Julie and Ethan have verified that we have clean water at PCER!

“…the biosand water filter (BSF) is producing drinkable water! Ethan and I have been drinking the BSF’s water for the past four days and our bodies have certified the water as potable. ” – PCER blog

Check out the hole blog entry for yourself at: http://sites.google.com/site/pantanalcer/in-the-news


State of the PCER water systems. May 25, 2011

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Design-Build-Test.
add a comment

We arrived at the site about three weeks ago to many visible changes after having been offsite for – the most of our team – an entire year.  This post is dedicated to our observations of how the site has been maintained in the past year.

Potable Water

The largest of these changes was the PCER building having been built.  It has two bathrooms and a kitchen sink, all being serviced by the water tower on the lodge side of the street.  All of this water is pumped from the swamp adjacent to the lodge.  There is no filtration of any sort between the swamp and the tap.

Currently the lodge has a pump to the swamp and to an artesian well.  The swamp water shows concentrations of E. Coli.  The artesian well has highly ferrous water that well exceeds the EPA’s secondary standard of 0.3 mg/L.  This well was augured last November, but quickly abandoned because of this fact.

Eduardo (the lodge owner) is thinking of digging another well – this time with a depth of approximately 8 meters – as well as building a new water tower and holding tank.

There is a well hole on the PCER side of the street.  It is no longer a viable option as the school’s main water supply because when the water line receded last year it showed that this well had been used as a garbage hole.  When we arrived onsite, the well was piled up to about a meter below surface level full of trash.  The employees of the lodge – who live in a house on the PCER site – have been using this well as a trash burning pit.  There usually a trash fire three times a week in this well.

The swamp behind the PCER site – similar to last year – had oil and diesel leaching into it from the generator that is located on the edge of the swamp.

Waste Systems

The previous year we built a quasi septic/leach field.  Our qualitative observations leave us to believe that this system is performing to at least a minimum standard of sight and smell.

We also dug – but soon abandoned because of the high water table – a different hole that would have served as the septic/leach field of the unbuilt phase 2.  This hole was left unfilled and has subsequently been filled with plastics and other pieces of trash.


-We believe that all existing and future buildings that form the PCER and Jaguar Ecological Reserve should be serviced by one main water source.  We believe that this will increase ease of monitoring and allow for greater efficiencies for all.

-Because all of the existing and potential water sources are down stream of the point sources of pollution, we advise a thorough impact assessment of the pollutants on the ground and service water surrounding PCER and the lodge.

-All dumping and burning of trash into the old well should stop as soon as possible. (note: luckily for us there are a group of Grahams Scholars coming down June 5th to build a trash incinerator.)

-Digging a new well could possibly unnecessary.  BSFs filter out approximately 90% of iron in water. Our BSF that we are building for drinking water at PCER will be shown to Eduardo as a model.  Putting a BSF(s) in line with the pump from the artesian well may achieve the levels of filtration that would allow for the current well to be potable.

Pantanal May 25, 2011

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Community, Design-Build-Test.
add a comment

Hello from pocone!

We’ve come back from the wilderness of the Pantanal for a day to gather more materials and make contact with the outside world. It’s been a crazy few weeks since we (Cory, Greg, Julie, Ethan and I (Micaela)) arrived in Brazil. Once we (finally) made it to the work site we buckled down to get the wooden mold built for the BSF. On site we have settled into an easy routine, waking up around 7:30 am getting breakfast in the lodge kitchen, working until 1230 when we break for lunch, after lunch we usually go for a swim, jumping off the bridge that is just up the road, the we work again until 5ish, shower and head over for dinner. We’ve been going to bed between 9 and 10 most nights which I find half wonderful and half ridiculous at first we told ourselves it was just to make up for finals week or because of the long days of travel, but now I think we’ve all accepted the early bedtime along with the rhythm of the pantanal.

As for the work itself, we adapted a design by CAWST for a metal filter mold into wood after determining that a metal mold wouldn’t really be feasible here. In the interest of sustainability and cost effectiveness, we used left over wood from the construction of the school, which after sitting out in a field for the better part of a year was not in the greatest shape. We got the mold built without any major problems, and attached frames to the sieves to start the long sifting process. After about 4 days of preparation poured the cement, again without any real issues, and left it to start curing over night. The next day, however, when we tried to remove the interior mold we found it to be inextractable. Several hours and several broken chunks of BSF found us resorting to matches and a squirty bottle of diesel to get it out. As one of my professors in the art school likes to say, ‘you must learn to kill your babies’, though we had worked long and hard on that first mold, we had to recognize its failure, and accept it for what we learned from the process of making it. The next morning, we pieced together a second mold from the scraps of our first, creating a collapsable interior as opposed to the original which screwed into place. This mold too came along with some speed bumps, but here we are, the concrete is cured, the interior is cleaned, the sand and gravel are washed, sifted and ready. When we arrive back at the lodge, we will fill it and begin the testing process.

We’ve also been helping Ethan and Julie prepare the school to open in July, painting the walls and laying bricks to partition the space into a: classroom, library, clinic, and lab space. We have our highs and lows for productivity, but overall we’ve been working pretty steadily. Hard to believe there’s only one week left!

Cuiaba e Pocone! May 5, 2011

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Community, Design-Build-Test.
add a comment

[May 5th]

Bom Dia, da casa de Eduardo!

Eduardo's House Cuiaba

Eduardo, the owner of the Jaguar Ecological Reserve, picked us up earlier this afternoon from the Ciuaba Airport and treated us to a wonderful lunch of rice and beans at his house.  We’re hitting the ground running, with big talks of water towers, wells, pumps, and filters already being thrown about in Portuguese and English.  We are now waiting on a taxi to come and pick us up to take us to Pocone, a city of about 20,000 people on the northern edge of the Pantanal.


[May 6th]

Today in Pocone we collected information and estimates on our materials and supplies for the water system.  We went to a few construction stores and asked about prices and materials.  Nothing was bought today.  Once Ethan comes down with the newly bought bus tomorrow, we will buy our materials and make our way down to the Eco Lodge tomorrow!


Visit to Pocone July 5, 2010

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Community, Design-Build-Test.
add a comment

Greetings from Pocone, Brazil!

In what will most likely be our last trip away from the work site, we are currently in the closest town to the lodge that we are staying at in the Pantanal – about a three hour drive.

There have been many advances in the project, and a few set backs since our last update. 

First, a positive:  All of our luggage is now accounted for.! After a week of waiting, we were finally able to get out the books and the materials that we needed to start our projects (all of which were convenietly located in Greg’s bag which was lost by Delta.)  Look for more details on the D-B-T page.

Negative: Following the crushing defeats (respectively) at the hands of Ghana and Netherlands, we no longer have any clear cut ties to any of the teams still in the World Cup.  Cory is backing Spain, while Greg is putting his money on the Germany. Regardless of who wins we’re hoping for three more good games and lots of goals.  More on everything that isn’t the build (including monkeys!) on our community page.

Be sure to check out the project’s blog, as well as the architect’s (links convienently located to the left!)

-Cory and Greg

Settling in June 21, 2010

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Community, Design-Build-Test.


Greg and I have arrived safely in Cuiaba and are getting acquainted with our surroundings in the Pantanal while waiting for Greg´s bags (with the water quality tests and sand sieves) to arrive so we can really get to work!  Today we are going to buy the other materials we need to build the water filter.  We are also comparing prices and energy demands of different water pumps that will be powered from the solar batteries at the school.

Currently water is being transported across the street from the Jaguar Ecological Reserve to a house, which is where the school will be built.  We tested the flow rate yesterday and compared it to theoretical values (look for data to be uploaded next time).  There is an old well dug next to the house that has not been used for five years, and at this point we are planning to reopen it and pump water from it up into a 5000L storage tank above the school.  We are also looking into modifying a hand pump to transport water up to the storage tank when the kids spin a merry-go-round.  We have lots to think about, but things should all start coming together in the next week!

Yesterday we went to Tito´s house to watch the Brazil vs. Cote D´Ivoire World Cup match with the GIEU group.  Tons of fun!  Look for pictures to be uploaded soon.  Back the lodge we have been fortunate to enjoy the delicious meals of Milton and the kindness of everyone at the Jaguar Ecological Reserve.  Truly an amazing place.  That´s all for now.  Another update will be coming soon. 


Pre-build design report for winter term 2010 June 6, 2010

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Design-Build-Test.
1 comment so far

Hey guys,

Beneath is the full report submitted to our engineering advisors explaining the trip and the design of the water system.

Multi Disciplinary PCER Report Spring 2010

10 days until my flight!


Waiting… May 20, 2010

Posted by pcerwatersystems in Design-Build-Test.
add a comment

Olá!  The water systems team is anxiously waiting to arrive in Brazil to build PCER and test our designs.  Arrival date in Cuiabá is June 15th!  Then we will travel down the Transpantaneira to the Jaguar Ecological Reserve to get settled in and begin building.  Check out our initial design proposal on the Design-Build-Test page.  Look for more info soon!

Até lago