Dr. Bill Strosnider, an Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering at Saint Francis University (Cambria County), has been working to correct acid mine drainage problems in Bolivia since 2006 when he as a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma.
He has been continuing his efforts and encouraging others to work together with the local people to make a difference in the lives and the health of residents affected by the intensive mining of silver and other metals for other four centuries.
He recently led a group of four volunteers from BioMost, Inc.-- Tim Danehy, Margaret Dunn, Ryan Mahoney and Buck Neely-- to complete preliminary design work on a water treatment project in Potosi, Bolivia, the second-poorest nation in our hemisphere.
[Note: BioMost, Inc. personnel have been involved in the design of more than 230 passive treatment components of all types which are successfully treating a combined total of over 1 billion gallons per year. In addition, thousands of acres of active and abandoned mine lands have been successfully reclaimed.]
The project goal was to treat contaminated mine drainage so that the water can be safely used for much-needed irrigation in the impoverished farming communities downstream.
BioMost, Inc. is assisting in the Bolivian project by providing cost estimates, designs and construction guidance free-of-charge.
The idea for the project began several years ago when Dr. Strosnider and Dr. Robert Naim (Oklahoma School of Engineering and Environmental Science) envisioned a passive water treatment plant in Potosi, a very poor and arid region whose main source of water is the Juckucha River.
The river is so contaminated that the local people know not to drink from it, however, the Juckucha River is still the key water supply for the area’s livestock and irrigation.
A 2008 analysis of residents’ blood samples showed exceptionally high levels of cadmium, lead and arsenic for locals living as far as 100 miles downstream from the silver mines.
Phase I of the Juckucha reclamation project was completed in May 2012, with 4 million pounds of limestone moved by hand (quite a task with each rock weighing 40 to 70 pounds) to line the two highest channels of the river.
Phase II of the project focuses on creating passive treatment systems for the Upper Juckucha River, where the abandoned mines are located, which is the focus of the work of BioMost, Inc.
Doug Daley, a visiting Environmental Engineering Professor from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, also accompanied Strosnider’s team on their October trip as a consulting hydrologist.
Julie Horvath of the Saint Francis Office for Study Abroad helped coordinate the travel and the trip was funded by the United Methodist Committee on Relief in coordination with the Environmental Engineering Department’s nonprofit partner organization, Engineers In Action.
Saint Francis students will help with the project as part of their capstone work at the University. They will work with Saint Francis professors and BioMost, inc. personnel to aid in the design of the irrigation water treatment project and during study abroad trips to Bolivia. They will continue to assist with the monitoring and maintenance of the systems, once constructed.
This project is an exciting example of transferring environmental technology developed here in Pennsylvania to help those in need a content away.
We are excited to be part of a remarkable partnership involving the Bolivian government, Pososi Rotary Club, Oklahoma University, resident volunteers and Engineers In Action.
It was thrilling to see an active water treatment plant installed and operated by a local mining company as of 2014, and after 100 years of no life in the Juckucha River, there is now moss, algae, grass and birds returning to the valley and most importantly, there is a new hope for the residents for clean water for their community!
[Editor: Does this sound familiar Pennsylvania? The original Growing Greener Program and the hard work and ingenuity of Pennsylvania partners made this all possible!]
(Reprinted from the February issue of The Catalyst newsletter from the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition in Butler County. Click Here to sign up for your own copy.)
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