Monday, February 26, 2018 (by Anneliese Paik and Rachel Banoff)
Ponce, Puerto Rico
After a long day of travel on Sunday, we finally arrived at our hotel in Ponce around 8 AM. After having some time to rest from the trip, we met for a conference with Brenda Guzman, our OXFAM collaborator, Madeleine Torres, our University of Puerto Rico Mayaguëz partner, and Fabian and Thalia, our guides. We planned out our week and which communities we would visit each day.
Afterwards, we ate dinner at a seaside restaurant. Lots of people ordered mofongo, a traditional Puerto Rican dish with mashed fried plantains topped with a creole stew of meat or seafood.
After dinner, we returned to the hotel and organized and calibrated our instruments for the sampling that would take place the next day.
On Monday morning, we were ready to go to Corea Metralla, a mountain community in Peñuelas. Our guides hit traffic on their way from San Juan and could not join us. Nonetheless, we loaded up our SUVs and drove through winding, steep, and narrow roads towards the water source of the community. A resident of the area, met with us to hike directly to the water source. He carved out the way with his machete, pointing out a plant used as an ingredient in cancer medicine.
We arrived at a rocky stream with a concrete structure with a filter. We collected our water samples and then hiked back up to the residential area.
Next, we explored an abandoned water treatment area, with a filtration unit (which George and Melanie climbed inside to sample) and an underground concrete water storage tank. Benito explained that by estimating the dimensions of the tanks, we could estimate the volumetric flow rate and the number of people served by the system.
After lunch, a community member showed us his property where he grows cacao, coffee, beans, and various other plants. We had learned that he used to grow and farm his own coffee, however, his entire farm got destroyed when Hurricane Maria occurred. He’s working slowly but steadily to rebuild his farm. We befriended his sweet and cuddly dog, Toby.
After dinner at the hotel, we conducted more tests on the water. We also discussed what we could improve upon to make the next few days go smoother.