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27 April 2005

Mott MacDonald engineer completes three month assignment for Oxfam in Sri Lanka

Quentin Rea, a water and wastewater engineer with Mott MacDonald, has just completed a three month assignment working for Oxfam on the east coast of Sri Lanka which was devastated by the Asian Tsunami. The Oxfam programme, based in Batticaloa and four other centres, involved working with local people to restore their communities and livelihoods.

In the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami people were housed wherever shelter could be found, many of them in schools. In January these schools were required for pupils returning to study so ad-hoc camps were established. Three months on, settlements have been established to house people until areas are identified for permanent re-housing. Quentin was working on sanitary systems and water supply for these areas.

A new water treatment plant has also been developed on the Verugal River to supplement water wells being used to supply the settlements, which are beginning to show signs of over-use as water levels fall steadily. The plant is capable of producing 12 000 litres of drinking water per day, which will be expanded to 50 000 litres, enough drinking water for 5 000 people. A second plant will be established using water from an irrigation reservoir. The treatment plants use a state-of-the-art membrane filter to remove virtually all suspended matter – converting cloudy river water to clear drinking water. The treated water is chlorinated to ensure that it can not carry any pathogens to the consumers.

In common with other agencies working in Sri Lanka, Quentin also developed a well cleaning programme for those communities which were able to go straight back to their original homes. The well cleaning team pumped out contaminated salty water and then removed accumulated sludge and other debris from the wells. The fresh underground water reserves which feed the wells was contaminated with salt water by the tsunami, but is now recovering naturally over time.

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