By Spc. Edgar Reyes, 2nd BCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.
Aug 31, 2006 – 4:58:00 AM
FOB KALSU, Iraq – Richard Wukich, a ceramics professor from Slippery Rock University in Pittsburgh, teaches two Iraqi apprentices how to properly measure colloidal silver on a scale, which is used to kill bacteria in ceramic filters, during a class at Forward Operating Base Iskandariyah Thursday aimed at providing clean water filters to local Iraqis.
Blackanthem Military News, FOB KALSU, Iraq – As the scorching Iraqi sun blazed down on a little boy in a village, he cupped his hands together to drink water from a canal running through the middle of his town, unaware that 11,000 children like him die from water-born diseases every day around the world who drink from similar canals.
As a way to resolve the local water problem and prevent tragedies such as this, leaders from 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, requested the help of a college professor to teach local Iraqi potters how to make clay/sawdust ceramic filter pots capable of decimating 99.88% of water-borne disease agents.
Perhaps equally important in the endeavor is the ability to provide jobs for the local populace and present a reason for factions to unite for a common cause.
To accomplish this, Richard Wukich, a college ceramics professor who teaches at Slippery Rock University in Pittsburgh, volunteered to instruct two Iraqi potters how to make the ceramic filters during his free time between semesters. He traveled to Iraq and spent two weeks training his new charges.
Wukich began his class by teaching the apprentices how to make clay pots with a mixture of saw dust, which is uncommon in Iraqi culture. The saw dust disappears during the clay baking process, creating several small holes that act as a filtering system inside the pot.
After crafting several pots, Wukich taught the trainees how to coat the pots with colloidal silver, an incredibly fine particle that kills bacteria and organisms and does not allow bacteria to grow into a culture inside the pot. The pots are either painted with a brush or dipped into a container containing a colloidal silver and water mixture.
After the colloidal silver is completely absorbed into the pot, it is placed on the mouth of a 5-gallon receptacle container. The filter is then covered with a lid or a piece of fine cloth.
Users pour water into the fine cloth to filter out extremely turbid water. As the water enters the clay pot, the filters inside the clay leave small dirt particles behind and the colloidal silver destroys any bacteria in the water. The clear and clean water then drips into the 5-gallon receptacle at a rate of 1-1.5 quarts-an-hour.
“This project was originally initiated by Capt. Richard Nardo,” said Wukich. “He is an environmental engineer who was activated by his Reserve unit to deploy to Iraq. He saw the need for a water filtration system and began researching on the internet until he found the clay filter technology “Potters for Peace” had learned to use from a doctor in Guatemala.”
Nardo contacted “Potters for Peace” and requested Wukich to help teach Iraqis how to build the filters as well as devise a business plan so the Iraqi people could begin mass manufacturing of the product and create jobs in the area.
Initial attempts to begin the project stalled in January 2004 before Wukich provided an article published in a renowned newspaper in the U.S., which contained statements from a commander in Iraq who had the same concerns regarding the conditions of the water supply.
In the article, Lt. Col. Patrick Donahoe, commander, 1-67 AR, stated the problems he was facing in Iraq were similar to the problems he faced when he deployed to Bosnia as a young officer, said Wukich. People of different ethnicities and religions attempted to gain power in the country and, in doing so, they ripped the country apart and divided the people – eerily resembling the current situation in Iraq with Sunni and Shiite factions clashing.
In the article, he also mentioned the need to provide business opportunities benefiting both factions and reintegrating local politics with leadership.
Knowing the business possibilities of the ceramic filters, Wukich said he sent an email to Donahoe describing the water filter and the possible economic impact it could have in Donahoe’s area of operations.
After several conversations with Donahoe, Wukich was invited to Forward Operating Base Iskandariyah to begin the project.
“If it wasn’t for Lt. Col. Donahoe, this project would not be happening right now,” said Wukich. “I had several roadblocks with my previous attempts, but with his assistance, I’ve finally been able to start the project.”
“This project is going to do two things,” said Maj. James Ortoli, civil affairs team leader, 412th Civil Affairs Battalion. “It’s going to put Iraqis to work and give them clean water. It is the most economically efficient way for Iraq to start making its people responsible for their own water.”
The big plan for the ceramic filters is to teach the apprentices how to make the filters so they can start selling them at affordable prices to the general public. Once the idea of having a filter catches on with the Iraqi people, the apprentices could then hire workers to increase production in their area thereby creating jobs and improving their economy. Having both sides work together to provide the country with clean water and boost the economy could be exactly what this country needs at this moment in time, said Ortoli.
“This filter has come late into my life,” said Wukich. “If I could teach people how to clean their water and have 10,999 children die a day instead of 11,000, I would feel like I accomplished something. It does not sound like a big statistic, but when it’s your child, it becomes significant.”
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