A shipment of 15 Bleach Makers from local non-profit WaterStep is currently en route to DR Congo with transportation provided by another Kentucky-based organization, OCongo. The equipment will be used to provide medical grade bleach desperately needed to stop the Ebola outbreak. Bleach kills the Ebola virus, which has reportedly affected more than 200 people and killed 118 people since it was first detected on August 1.
The equipment will take two weeks to make its way to Goma, where it will be picked up by WaterStep's partners in DR Congo. From there the Bleach Makers will be delivered to clinics and hospitals in the affected areas, and the staff members will be trained on how to use them. The shipment also contains 5 safe water systems that will be installed in local schools.
WaterStep's portable Bleach Maker is a handheld device that can generate powerful disinfectant on demand. Using water, salt, and a 12-volt car battery, the Bleach Maker uses a process called electrolysis to create sodium hypochlorite, more commonly known as chlorine bleach.
The Bleach Maker was, in fact, developed in response to the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014. Emergency workers and medical staff are some of the most at-risk for exposure to the disease during outbreaks. While they wear protective suits, there is rarely a disinfectant on hand to spray the suits after they've been removed and to sanitize surfaces at clinics. Due to the geography of where Ebola outbreaks occur, transporting large amounts of liquid bleach to the area is a severe challenge. WaterStep's Bleach Maker fills this critical need by producing large amounts of bleach that exceeds the World Health Organizations standards to treat medical waste.
The concept for this device originated in 2014 at Hack2O, a hack-a-thon hosted by WaterStep and FirstBuild. WaterStep volunteers Frank Diebold, David Mekus and Dr. Joe Jacobi led a group of volunteers from UofL, the Louisville Water Company and General Electric's First Build Innovation Center who worked together to develop this very powerful disinfectant tool. After nearly two years of development and field testing, the device launched in 2016 and has been deployed to places such as Kenya, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Uganda, Ecuador, and most recently North Carolina. WaterStep's Portable Bleach Maker won Environmental Protection's Award for New Product of the Year in 2017.
To donate to WaterStep's safe water projects, visit WaterStep.org/donate.
WaterStep, headquartered in Louisville, KY, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that believes everyone should have access to safe water and that no one should suffer from waterborne illnesses. WaterStep implements water projects and equips people with tools and training in water purification, disaster relief, sanitation, health education, and well repair. Since its founding in 1995, WaterStep has brought safe water to people in over 40 countries. For more information, visit waterstep.org.