From Los Banos to Nigeria: Help for detecting safe water

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comMarch 1, 2013 

What do you get when you combine an inch-long plastic tube, soy wax, a washer and a wire? You get a lifesaver.

More than a dozen Pacheco High School Interact club members and Rotarians last week made water pasteurization indicators -- or WAPIs -- for people in regions without potable water.

"We can turn on our water faucets and have a drink from there, while they can't really do that," said Persis Veronica, a 17-year-old junior. "It just makes us thankful for the things that we have."

Water-related diseases are responsible for about 80 percent of all illnesses and deaths in the developing world, according to Rotary International. About 1.3 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water, including nearly half of sub-Saharan Africa.

A WAPI is a simple device made of food-grade materials that a person can use when heating water or milk to know when harmful agents are destroyed. The device hangs from a stainless steel wire into a pot and the soy wax, which melts at 160 degrees, turns from white to a clear liquid. The WAPI, which uses a washer to sink, can be used over and over.

Brenda Latham, the president of Los Banos Rotary, said the groups have completed about 200 indicators in two work days.

"These indicate when the water's hot enough to kill germs without having to boil it," Latham said. "So, it's a fuel-saving device."

In Nigeria, where the 200 identifiers are headed, fuel is relatively scarce. Latham said any place experiencing civil strife has the added danger of women or children traveling great distances through wartorn territory for fuel.

Latham said she is sending the WAPIs along with a group from Merced Sunrise Rotary, which is on a solar-oven campaign in Nigeria.

Club adviser Ila Nelson, an English teacher, said there are 48 members in Interact, which is the high school version of the Rotary Club. She said the club's service projects are meant to teach leadership skills, personal integrity, respect for others and advance international understanding and good will, among other concepts.

"These students share a passion for helping others in an effort to better our community," Nelson said in an email.

Fatima Cortez, 16, said her club is involved in a number of events to help the community and the less fortunate, like Habitat for Humanity, graffiti cover-up and the Angel Tree Project.

"Interact's really fun," the junior said, adding it looks good on a college résumé.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

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