Most people don’t spend much time thinking about global issues, such as sanitation. But four Wisconsin plumbers will help Team USA compete in a world plumbing challenge to bring sanitation to India’s poor.
In the town of Nashik, India, there are 500 students sharing two bathrooms. Both of those bathrooms are dirtied with feces and dirt on walls and floors and are the only ones the students have access to. The job of Team USA is to remedy these issues.
Adam Koenigs is one of the plumbers representing the United States. He told local news station ABC 2 in Green Bay, WI, that, “It’s difficult to understand what we’re going to see when we get there. It’s a whole different world.”
Koenigs is joined on Team USA by a plumbing apprentice, Peter Hollmaier, and two engineers from Milwaukee. They will compete with other nations to help solve the school’s plumbing problems and sanitation.
Koenigs says the main goal is to promote “good hand-washing and good way to get rid of waste.”
However, the issue goes much farther than that. A coach for the team, Randy Lorge, explains, “Most of the sicknesses are being related to simple hand-washing.”
Over two billion people around the world do not have access to clean bathrooms according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, about one billion defecate in the open, which can lead to dangerous health issues in small, cramped communities.
India accounts for many of those people, and with a population of 1.5 billion in a country half of America’s size, it’s a major concern.
“Imagine no bathrooms, no toilets, in some areas of the city that we’ll be in,” says Lorge. “So many people think that plumbing is just about putting pipes together. It’s their purpose as a tradesman to provide safe, potable water.”
The biggest issue the team faces is solving these issues without installing modern plumbing systems, because it would require modern plumbing tools for upkeep. The plan, once the teams competing have figured out solutions, is to implement their system across India, where they wouldn’t have access to modern tools for maintenance.
“The wealth isn’t there,” says Lorge, “so they’re not going to have the same type of tools that we are going to have right here in Appleton.”
The plumbing competition traveled to Singapore last year and is part of a five-year plan to fix plumbing problems in developing countries. The idea is to fix some of the biggest issues facing each country.
Lorge says, “This is the pinnacle of what I do — to be able to take this over there and do something like this.”
“I’m prepared for feelings that I can’t even imagine,” Koenigs added.