The Well is Pumping!

Yesterday was the first day of this round of construction with Lavela’s crew and the word has gotten around that “white man Jon” is back in town.  As John 2 pulled around the corner of the warehouse wall, I was greeted by a mass of over 60 people looking for work.  It was a bit overwhelming as I attempted to work my way up the hill with some supplies being followed by a Liberian gang of hopeful workers-to-be.  Fortunately, it’s Lavela’s job to pick manpower and I tried to avoid it and get my work going.

Amelia learning to crimp wires on the Grundfos water pump.

The crew from Lifewater arrived around 10am with their electrician, Joe.  As we went over the scope of work, his face kept changing expressions.  Then he finally said, “I thought we were just dropping the pump into the well with the wiring and capping it.”  Instead, I needed help installing the pump/solar controllers.  As we reviewed the documentation and wiring diagrams, a crew of men dug a 3-foot deep trench from the pump house to the well about 100 feet away.  I asked Sumo to arrange about 4 community members to accompany us during the pump wiring, installation of supply pipe, capping the well casing to keep critters out, and controller installation.  I encouraged him to select women to be part of the group and we ended up with 2 men, 2 women, and 3-5 miscellaneous spectators hovering over us.  Joe, who’s here from Canada for 2 weeks, was very patient and did a good job of carefully explaining everything.


As the day continued, I made trips to Gbarnga trying to find missing parts and PVC pipe fittings (FYI – never do anything with 1-1/4″ PVC…it doesn’t exist except in Gbarnga so you’re out of luck if you’re lacking pieces.)  After unsuccessfully searching, I switched to a different size (1″) and we were off and running.  Our group of trainees (including me since I’ve never done a submersible well pump before) were taking turns gluing pipes and wiring things. As with other “group help” experiences, there came a point when there were just

Feeding the pump down the well and gluing PVC supply pipe section-by-section.



too many hands in a 4″ well casing and Joe dropped a brass fitting down the well.  The well is about 90 feet deep and the pump is lowered down using a nylon rope with 19 foot sections of PVC pipe being glued in place till the bottom of the pump reached about 84 feet deep (leaving room at the bottom so it doesn’t sit in sediment).  Luckily, he was able to pull up some of the rope, see the fitting hadn’t sunk to the bottom of the 4″ abyss, and finagle the fitting back within reach.  By mid-afternoon we hooked up the generator to the pump controllers and let ‘r rip…nothing.  We removed the jumper wire Joe installed at the float switch and let ‘r rip again…this time water started shooting out the side of the well casing (where it was supposed to)!


Concurrently, a young electrician, Edwin Suah, worked on wiring security lights in the guard house and installing a single solar panel on the roof using the mounting frame John 2 welded.  The solar control module (“Midnight Solar BRAT”) has various settings to control what the output does but we set it for “dusk to dawn” so our lights will come on automatically whenever the solar panel stops producing electricity, thus it acts as a photo-

Edwin installing the security light facing the water tower.

sensor. We also installed one outside the guard house facing the water tower and pump house.  I think Edwin with be a great asset going forward.  Last night was our first automatic lighting test.

When I arrived this morning, the security guys said the lights were fantastic, extremely bright, and stayed lit all night with the 100 Ah car battery we’re using.  I had planned to do the
same setup in the other guard house, but the second “BRAT” controller was one of the items I discovered was among the stolen supplies.  Lavela is very excited because he’s trying to set up a solar light arrangement at his house where his wife sells sacks of cold water and seeing the lights up on our school property hill makes him want it even more.

Work continues in the school.  They’re pouring the concrete “shiny floors”.  I’ve also discovered that the toilet attachment mimg_6888ethod here is totally different than in the US and the “toilet flanges” I glued in place needed to come out.  Unfortunately this meant chiseling the concrete floor enough to reveal the drain pipe, cut it, and reinstall cement.
I spent the entire day running supply pipe from the well, feeding the pump wiring through PVC conduit to keep critters from digging and eating the casing, and adjusting the chlorination system piping.  It was probably the hottest day I’ve experienced here with the sun just scorching us as we laid piping.  Tomorrow we will have water pumping through the chlorination system and up into the water tower tank.  My goal is to flush a toilet and take a shower in the guesthouse bathroom before I leave this trip.

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