In response to an appeal from the Kiribati Ministry of Health, we have just completed the purchase and installation of a reverse osmosis desalination system to provide fresh, clean water to the small hospital on Christmas Island (Kiritimati), serving the needs of the Line Islands there.
The system draws sea water from the nearby lagoon, filters it and produces up to 800 gallons per day of clean, safe drinkable water for patients and staff at the hospital, said Carlton Smith, PIMA president. “Locals say it tastes like rain water.”
Prior to installation of the system, water was trucked in to the hospital on a daily basis, drawn from untreated shallow wells several miles away, Carlton said, where total dissolved solids and bacteria exceeded standards in the U.S. for human consumption.
Spearheading selection and installation of the system were PIMA volunteers Loren Vinson of San Diego, California and Barry Shaw of Edom, Texas, who spent many hours on the project and traveled to Christmas Island to oversee installation and training.
Here is Loren’s report:
By Loren Vinson, PIMA Volunteer
A serious problem on Christmas Island is the lack of potable water. The problem is particularly acute for the patients and staff of the small hospital on the island.
Water from wells in the vicinity of the hospital is significantly contaminated, and the water in the tanks used by the hospital is trucked from an inland area that is somewhat less contaminated but still not considered potable. Moreover, the island is in drought conditions and the water situation is not improving.
Installation Complete – Work on the reverse osmosis desalination system is completed and clean, fresh drinking water is flowing in to tanks at the Ronton Hospital on Christmas Island in Kiribati, drawing sea water from the island lagoon. Here, Pacific Islands Medical Aid volunteer installation technicians Barry Shaw, at left, and Loren Vinson, right, flank Taaren Toanikai, Christmas Island Ministry of Health biomedical technician, following completion of the project last month.
At the request of the Kiribati Ministry of Health, Pacific Islands Medical Aid, Inc. (PIMA), made a decision to purchase and install a desalination system to convert salt water from the nearby lagoon to fresh drinking water. PIMA provided funding for the project and needed volunteers to develop the project and complete installation and training of local technicians for ongoing operation and maintenance.
Logistics of this project were significant and I was asked to develop a plan. Over a period of about six months, I came to understand the requirements, but needed help with pumps, fittings and electrical work, so we were able to recruit a top man, Barry Shaw, who had this type of experience.
In March of this year, Barry and I were privileged to spend a week on the island installing the system along with the hospital’s biomedical technician Taaren Toanikai and making it a reality.
It was truly heartwarming when the fresh water began flowing… we even heard someone say, “It tastes like rainwater!”
The response from islanders made it clear to us just how important this project was to them. We were treated as celebrities, and they frequently expressed their appreciation.
In fact, the Minister of Health for Kiribati was present on the island during the installation and spent considerable time monitoring the project and expressing interest in it.
This small desalination unit only provides enough fresh water for the hospital and it is only the first step in providing fresh water to the people of the island. The need is clear and we were grateful to be able to help provide a start in the right direction.