Couple works to install water purification system in Ecuador town

Gabriel Garcia, left, and Johan Vandersande discuss plans to install the water purification system for San Juan de Pastocalle, Ecuador, in the building behind them, which is in the middle of town. Courtesy of Theresa Howell

Just returning from their April 12 trip to San Juan de Pastocalle, a town of 3,000 men, women, and children situated at 10,00 feet in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador, Johan and Evelyne Vandersande eagerly described how they found a suitable building to house the water purification that their group, all members of the First Presbyterian Church of Newhall, are planning to build in July 2019.

Both were ecstatic in their praise of the local leadership in the town, which was taking over the education of their people on the benefits of the purification system.

“I did not want us gringos telling these people that the purification system would be beneficial to them. I wanted one of them to do it. We found the local leader in Gabriel Garcia,” Johan said. “Garcia is the ‘junta de agua,’ which means he heads the local water board. Before we left, he called a meeting for residents to hear about the purification system and about 400 attended. They were eager to hear about the system.”

About 400 people attended a water board meeting in San Juan de Pastocalle, Ecuador, where the benefits of the purification system were explained. Courtesy of Theresa Howell

Evelyne said the water testing done by the couple shows high concentration of microorganisms and bacteria in the town’s water. “People will get sick if they drink water directly from the faucet since the water is not treated,” Evelyne said. “The water is taken from the stream and pumped into the houses without any chlorine being added.”  

According to Evelyne, villagers will use the water to bathe or for other uses around the house, but they spend tremendous amount of money on bottled water or soda for drinking. “Money they cannot afford,” Johan pointed out.

Both said the water system they want to install is the creation of Living Waters for the World, a charitable organization based in Tennessee. According to Johan, he and his wife went through the Living Waters for the World’s intensive classes, spending more than 75 hours learning how to install and maintain the water purification system. They also learned how to educate people on the necessity for maintaining and using the system that will keep them healthy.

“We found Garcia, and he and the people under him will be holding ongoing meetings to educate the public about the need for the water purification system being installed,” Johan said.

Since the Vandersandes’ return, their group, which includes John Favalessa, Scott Bullock, Jack and Barbara Irwin, and Art Moore (all members of First Presbyterian), met to set a tentative installation date of July 2019 for the water system.

“Before the biggest problem facing us was finding a good location to put the system,” Evelyn said. “We solved that problem. Now we have to install the system and make sure it gets used. Other people have found that if you install the system away from where people live, people will not get their water from the purification system. Most people here do not have cars or trucks, and they cannot carry heavy jugs of water for miles.”

According to the Vandersandes, the building where the system is being installed is right in the middle of town. Johan said, “We could not have found a better spot. It is convenient to a large number of townspeople.”

The only problem now is to raise enough funds to pay for the system, according to Johan. He said plans are being formulated to raise money to pay for the filters and ozonator, which are the expensive parts of the system. He said most of the system is made up of plastic tubing, which he says can be picked up at hardware stores near the town. But, he said, the filters and ozonator could only be obtained out of the country.

“These are important parts of the system,” Evelyne said. “The filter removes all the microorganisms and the ozonator kills harmful bacteria. These must be purchased and brought into the area. Filters have to be changed once a year. Plus, the ozonator breaks down. This all costs money.”

Right now, the group is determining how to obtain funds to buy the equipment needed for San Juan de Pastocalle and for future projects, according to Johan. “We will get help from First Pres members because this project is important to church members, but we want to start fundraisers to continue raising the money needed for these water projects.”

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