LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Volunteers with WaterStep in Louisville are busy working to provide clean water in eastern Kentucky following the devastating flooding there.
WaterStep provides water purification tools in developing countries and in cases of war or disaster.
The group has been sending shipments to Ukraine to aid in the fight against Russia for months. It also deployed its Water on Wheels, or WOW Carts to communities in western Kentucky following December’s deadly tornadoes and Marion as that city is in a water crisis.
Former Louisville Water Company president Greg Heitzman volunteers with WaterStep and explains each WOW Cart can purify as much as 10,000 gallons of water a day.
“It’s a replica of the large water treatment plant that would be in Louisville or in Lexington or in E-town, and essentially just put it in a box the size of a hotel cleaning cart,” Heitzman explained.
Tools to treat water with chlorine, carbon filters, UV light and other filters that strain out larger particles are all on the cart, along with technology that can make bleach for disinfectant purposes.
Volunteers say the cart can purify any type of water, from city water that’s under a boil water notice, to rainwater, to lake or river water that needs more purification.
Heitzman says the nonprofit worked fast to move back up carts no longer being used in western Kentucky and Marion to Eastern Kentucky when the flooding hit.
“It’s a good solution for a temporary emergency water supply,” Heitzman said, adding that it’s a much more environmentally friendly option than trucking in thousands upon thousands of water bottles.
Heitzman says it will take some flooded communities months to repair waterlines and restore safe, clean water.
In the meantime, WOW Carts have been set up along with giant tanks of water with the ability to purify up to 10,000 gallons of water a day in four eastern Kentucky locations: HomePlace Community Center in Perry County, Buckhorn Children’s Center in Perry County, Mayking Fire Department in Letcher County and in River Caney in Breathitt County.
Heitzman explained, “That can supply showers, mobile showers, It can provide essentially laundry, so the individuals that have all the mud and everything, all their clothes have been essentially destroyed, they can bring those in to clean them, because they don’t, their washing machines are gone, essentially. Also, food trucks will also come set up—nonprofits will come set up food trucks for food distribution and cook food, and so we’re providing safe water for food cooking. And then, the most important part, we create a small manifold with a water spigot on it just like your hose spigot, where individuals can come, we give them containers, and you can go down to this faucet right here and be able to then fill up and cart away anywhere from two to five gallons of water that you can carry.”
The WaterStep team is testing each tank’s water daily, ensuring it’s safe to drink. The group also works with state and local agencies in all the communities. It’s helping to ensure the water it’s pumping out meets all necessary regulations and standards.
It takes just a few hours to purify an entire tank full of water, which can provide enough water for everyone coming by to use it for a day or two.
“We’ll probably be down there several months, and then one by one, our WOW Carts will essentially be folded up, packed up, and either left there for future disasters or brought back to Louisville for redeployment in another location,” Heitzman said.
WaterStep runs off donations and hopes raising awareness about efforts in Eastern Kentucky will also spark interest in helping efforts to provide clean water for entire communities overseas. The nonprofit takes donations on its website.