Science and Environment

Ateneo Innovation Center brings green solutions to resettlement site

- Rosary Diane Maligalig -

MANILA, Philippines - After the devastation that tropical storm “Sendong” brought to Cagayan de Oro City, the focus is now on rebuilding.

Currently, rebuilding is focused on the temporary resettlement site which is a joint project of Xavier University (XU) and the city government of Cagayan de Oro.

In response to the call for assistance, the Ateneo Innovation Center (AIC) brought green solutions to the Xavier Ecoville temporary resettlement site located in Lumbia, Cagayan de Oro.

The main purpose of the deployment is to help XU “design a cost-effective and disaster-responsive (resettlement) community.” This will include the following systems: clean water system, solar powering, rain catchment system and wastewater management system, plus composting and solid waste management.

Currently, there are two solar-powered clean water systems running at the temporary resettlement site and four more will be added in an ongoing deployment.  


Providing clean drinking water by using solar energy

The solar-powered clean water system was an original idea conceptualized by AIC director and Congressional Committee on Science, Technology and Education (COMSTE) executive director Dr. Gregory Tangonan.

From Tangonan’s idea, AIC’s operations officer Paul Cabacungan and engineer Jun Granada worked on different modules for their Master’s thesis and part of the result was the solar-powered clean water system.

The system is made up of a solar panel, a car battery, an AC-DC inverter, a water pump, a ceramic filter, and an ultraviolet (UV) lamp. The solar panel charges the car battery which, in turn, runs the system. Water from the municipal water source is pumped into the system, the ceramic filter eliminates impurities, and the UV lamp kills the microorganisms.

It was originally envisioned to collect rainwater for treatment into potable water. But in case there is no rainwater, Cabacungan said the system can “clean non-potable water.” In the case of Xavier Ecoville, the two installed systems “clean the tap water” from the municipal water provider.  

Tangonan said the clean water systems in place are giving the residents of the resettlement site “peace of mind.” He added that “people are still wary of the water in Cagayan de Oro” and the system provides them with “double-cleaned water” (from the filters and UV treatment).

Cabacungan noted that for pregnant women in the resettlement site, there is no more need to boil water because of the clean water system.

Wastewater management system

Papyrus plants are irrigated by treated wastewater at the Ateneo’s Marian garden. Jun Granada

Another innovation that the AIC plans to bring to the permanent resettlement site is the wastewater management system. The system is currently running in two locations at the Ateneo campus: the Marian Garden and the Matteo Ricci Study Hall, the former running since 2008 and the latter, since 2010.

The system was originally the Master’s thesis of Granada. This system also incorporates the results of the Master’s thesis of Abby Favis of the Environmental Science Department on constructed wetlands. Prior to the Ateneo project, Granada studied the first wetland wastewater treatment in the Philippines in Bayawan, Negros Oriental.     

Granada said that what makes the systems in Ateneo unique are the use of the papyrus plant, disinfection using layers of activated charcoal, silica sand, gravel and pebbles. He said the system is cost-effective and sustainable “because it can run even during calamities.”

The resulting water has been tested by the Philippine Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry (PIPAC) and was certified to have fewer bacteria and after UV treatment, the wastewater has turned to Class C water which is ideal for irrigation.  

Green solutions for the future

Tangonan said the AIC is keen on bringing these green solutions to the Lumbia site because “we don’t want to make the resettlement site into an ecological nightmare.”

He added that the Mateo Ricci wastewater management system has turned the building into a zero-waste facility. More importantly, he said the AIC’s role is to “share technology at minimal engineering cost.”

These green solutions, he believes, will also help the affected community by “letting them get back on their feet” and by empowering them. He even related that “local guys (have been) volunteering to maintain the clean water system.”

As for future plans, Tangonan said the AIC is “thinking of having permanent installations (of these green innovations)” which people can visit so that they will see “how technology works.”

The plan of having a green solutions laboratory at the Ateneo, he said, is in line with Ateneo president Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin’s mission on disaster preparedness and climate change.







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