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As part of the culmination of our five year collaboration with our partners in the Dominican Republic, the main goals of our monitoring trip were to inspect the integrity of our past projects and to talk to the community about the projects’ impact and the community’s continued plans for project ownership: maintenance, improvements, expansions, and replications along with the transfer of the design and construction knowledge between community members.
Batey Cinco Casas – Roof
The first project we implemented throughout the program was constructing a roof on an unused building to double the BRA medical clinic’s capacity. We focused on monitoring the structural integrity, especially since it has been hit by the outskirts of a few hurricanes already. Everything was holding up even better than expected – the original building hadn’t settled at all due to our structure and all of the wood and connections were still well secured. There were two main problems that we came across. The first was due to the expansion and contraction of the corrugated metal roof due to large temperature changes; the paint was already peeling allowing for the metal beneath to begin rusting. We’ve suggested to the clinic that they should repaint the roof more often, approximately every two years, to increase its longevity. The second problem we ran into was that, due to how the roof was implemented, there were large grooves in the below concrete due to the drip-line. We initially wanted to use splash blocks all the way around the roof to mitigate the problem, but splash blocks don’t exist in the Dominican Republic. We then turned towards a gutter system, which we eventually had to have fabricated for us in the capital. We attached these to the roof, ran a few water tests to make sure the levels were correct and the connections were sealed, and then explained to the clinic about how they need to maintain it. The clinic staff and patients were very satisfied with the new roof – it provided good ventilation and kept the building much lighter and cooler that its twin-building covered with a flat roof that serves as the main clinic.
Batey Cinco Casas – Septic System
Our second project within the program was implementing a piping network and septic system for the building we renovated so that they could use it as an inpatient facility. A few months before the trip, the clinic told us that the septic system was overflowing and flooding back up the system. This was a large concern for us because it could mean that the filtration system that the clinic implemented before our collaboration wasn’t working or that our system was somehow clogged. When we arrived, the clinic had constructed a completely new building behind the one we renovated to serve as a surgery center and redid some of the piping network because of this. Not expecting this great expansion, we had to deviate from our plan to understand how the new system was working and to verify the flow between the junction boxes and septic system from different parts of the clinic. Eventually we determined that the filtration system, a re-injection well, was clogged where it re-injected the water into the group to be filtered and so the water was backing up into the rest of the system. We hired a driller to come out and clean it while also deepening the well. Not only was the well clogged, but the clinic was also putting all of the surface water from the rain into the re-injection well and likely trying to use it beyond its capacity. We re-piped some of the system so that no groundwater could enter and built a junction box at the front end of our septic system so that all new pipe lines could attach to the septic system there. Upon our return to the USA, we created a better manual explaining what we accomplished, how the system worked, proper maintenance techniques and timing, and how future expansions should be added to our system. The clinic was confident with this information they could easily manage the system, taking full ownership, as they continued expanding their services to the surrounding communities.
Batey Santa Rosa – Latrines
The final project we completed within the program was the collaboration on an improved pit latrine design in Batey Santa Rosa to augment sanitation of the community. Many of their latrines were full and the community didn’t have the expertise to construct safe and sustainable latrines. The community, of mixed Haitian and Dominican ancestry, worked together well and over our time, we constructed six latrines and the community constructed three more on their own. Again, our main goal was to check the structural integrity, confirm that the community was using them correctly and not, for example, throwing trash into the pits which would influence negatively the composition process. Overall, all nine of the latrines were structurally sound and the community members cleaned them frequency, used them correctly, and added improvements. The modifications, short walls around the latrine extending to the corrugated metal walls, generally worked to diminish the rain and clay from entering the latrines during heavy rain, but often times captured any water inside (like from cleaning) and left puddles around the wood. This caused the wood of the superstructure to begin to rot, which is a major issue decreasing the longevity of the latrine. Talking with community members, we came up with a further enhanced design. The next latrines that the community will build will have a layer of concrete blocks (CMUs) as the first layer and the rest of the structure will be on top. The corrugated metal siding will then protrude low enough to cover the blocks partially while keeping them off the ground to keep water from puddling. The community is really excited about this prospect and are looking to raise funds through the local government, BRA, as well as from community members. They have taken great leadership with this project and have completely taken over the ownership of the latrines and we expect them to be sustained for beyond the upcoming forty years!