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Brewery benefit coming up for Uganda water project

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 15. 2017 5:50PM

People in Gwase, Uganda, wait in line to fill their water jugs. (COURTESY)

Drinking a pint of beer could help bring clean water to an African village.

A group of local engineers working on a water project for a community in Uganda is raising funds to help pay for it through an event that features an educational tour, two bands and food at Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth from 1 to 6 p.m. on July 30.

The Water for Uganda brewery tour will include visits to Redhook's water and wastewater treatment systems and its biogas cogeneration plant - just the kinds of things you might expect would be popular with an event organized by the Engineers Without Borders New Hampshire Professional Chapter. Tickets are $40 and are available at Organizers hope to attract 125 to 150 people to the outdoor event.

While planning the event, organizers connected with an engineer at Redhook who manages the brewery's wastewater treatment system and also had experience working with Engineers Without Borders.

"Producing beer creates a lot of water waste to manage. She's going to talk about that facet of their production," said chapter vice president David Hawk, who first got involved with Engineers Without Borders while studying at the University of New Hampshire. "As a result, anyone who has a professional engineering license can receive one hour of professional development by going on the tour."

The local Engineers Without Borders-USA chapter, founded in 2015, attracts 25 to 30 members each month to its meetings, said Hawk, who added that the group's email list is three or four times larger.

Jeffrey Benway of SFC Engineering Partnership Inc. collects samples from a village's water supply in Uganda. Benway is one of four people from the New Hampshire chapter of Engineers Without Borders who traveled to the African nation in October to do an assessment for a water supply and sanitation project that will benefit about 9,000 people. (COURTESY)

"Some of those people are surprisingly active - even though they are not able to make it to the chapter meetings - by lending a hand and local fundraising efforts that are in their backyard," Hawk said.

Last October, four members of the group spent 10 days in Gwase, Uganda, to begin preliminary work on a water supply and sanitation project that has the potential to help 9,000 people. Villagers there currently travel about a kilometer to reach their water supply.

The group - which Hawk said hopes to make a second trip to Uganda between December and February - estimates it will need about $90,000 to complete the nine-well project over the next five years. That includes water testing, protecting the wells, maintenance and mobilization of a drill rig.

The Engineers Without Borders-USA team is working with the Busoga Volunteers for Community Development, a volunteer organization in Uganda.

Tietjen Hynes, operations project engineer for Redhook, will be guiding the brewery tour July 30. 

"We are going to do a complete water systems tour with the engineers who are at the event. We'll cover incoming water, wastewater that is generated, how we treat wastewater on site," Hynes said. "And we'll do a quick tour of our new biogas generation plant that we just put in."

Hynes, who joined Redhook five years ago, worked with Engineers Without Borders-USA while she was in college, participating in water project in Kenya that also had her staying in Tanzania while awaiting permitting from the government.

The three-month experience in Africa was eye-opening, she said.

"There's a clear need there. In most cases their safest water supplies are usually seasonal. They'll have hand-dug wells, which are all right. They have some surface bacteria contamination depending on how well-dug it was," Hynes said. "But those water sources, because they are not bored wells, usually dry up during their dry season."

That means the villagers have to walk farther to get the water they need for everyday life.

"And usually that task falls on women and children, especially school-age children," Hynes said. "What we were really about was making sure since the kids are going to get the water anyway, that they could go to school to get the water. And while they were at it, they could potentially go to class."

Heather Ballestero, Jodie Bray Strickland, Heidi Lemieux and Jeffrey Benway of Engineers Without Borders New Hampshire receive a woven bowl from villagers and community development leaders during a trip to Uganda, where the group is working to bring clean water to nine villages. (COURTESY)

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