Helping Humanity: Engineering a Clean Water Solution

March 4, 2010

With a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering (IE’1985) from Georgia Tech, alumnus Tracy Hawkins has found her calling as a “humanitarian engineer.” What was started half-way around the world in Africa, is today making a difference in five countries (Haiti, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda). Focused on providing clean water, Tracy is a vice president of FilterPure, a company that implements local enterprises that manufacture and distribute ceramic water filters for use in the home. Currently the focus of her company is on increasing production in the Dominican Republic to aid the Haitian earthquake victims.

 

Inexpensive Design Yields Maximum Benefit

At the cost of about $30, a ceramic pot nestled in a five- or six-gallon plastic bucket is able to filter contaminated river water into clean drinking water for a family for five years. Along with not having to transport water into the affected area, health outcomes include a significant reduction in occurrence of disease and death from water-borne contaminants.

The Idea is Formed

Formerly a project manager in the corporate world, Tracy took a volunteer vacation to Africa in 2005 where she began working to establish a pottery school in northern Tanzania. When her research into pottery methods uncovered the technique of ceramic water filtration, Tracy saw the chance to serve humanity by updating old technology with new distribution methods. Aiming to stop the spread of disease through contaminated drinking water in Tanzania, Tracy organized a staff and developed Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa (SWCEA).

SWCEA and AquaPure = FilterPure

Since 2007, Tracy and her Tanzanian-based organization have collaborated with Lisa Ballantine of AquaPure, a company located in the Dominican Republic with similar goals. Tracy and Lisa officially joined forces in 2008, forming FilterPure. Tracy continues to lead the development of SWCEA by bringing resources, consultation, and encouragement to the local project team, while also focusing on spreading the FilterPure solution to other developing countries in need.

"My industrial engineering background has been key in helping me to support this humanitarian project because I have been exposed to so many sciences," Hawkins admits, "It's a perfect fit; I am learning something new every day and incorporating it into our plans.”

For more information on Tracy’s company, FilterPure, visit www.filterpurefilters.org.

For information on the ISyE’s Center for Health and Humanitarian Logistics visit tli.isye.gatech.edu/research/humanitarian.

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