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posted May 24, 2011, 2:19 PM by Julie Bateman   [ updated May 24, 2011, 7:59 PM ]

A bit over a week in the Pantanal and three attempts at pouring a concrete biosand water filter (BSF) and we at last had success today. The formwork for the BSF was a bit challenging as we only had experience with columns, and the BSF requires exterior and interior formwork. The first attempt was a dismal failure - we had attached the interior formwork together with nails and screws, and the pressure of the concrete prevented us from removing it. The top of filter cracked entirely off while we were attempting to remove the interior formwork, and while our solution of burning out the formwork had mild success, it was clear that there must be a more superior method.

Fortunately, some of the guides at the eco-lodge, Fabricio and Maurao, gave us the good advice of just propping up the pieces of the interiorformwork rather than attaching them with screws and nails. This proved to be somewhat tricky, and our second pour had to be immediately removed from the form, and hastily readied for a third pour. The third pour's success was largely from the addition of bricks into the interior formwork to prop it up, a very common one called oito furo (eight holes) that happened to be the perfect size. We now have an excellent-looking filter and just need to fill it with gravel, coarse sand, and fine sand. Within a month, a biological layer, called the schmutzdecke, will mature on top and capture approximately 95% of bacteria. Additionally, the schmutzdecke can capture 90-95% of iron, which is very important here as the eco-lodge has an artisanal well (about twelve meters deep) that is currently useless because the water has a ridiculous amount of iron in it. While Ethan was here in the rainy season, he attempted to wash his clothes with water from the artisanal well and it was like a very dirty version of washing new white and red clothes together. 

The eco-lodge currently pumps its water from a nearby swamp; however, Eduardo has plans to dig an eight-meter-deep well in November, the driest season. We will be constructing a new water tower near the location of this future well. A nearby ranch (fazenda) has an eight-meter-deep well that provides clean-looking water, the water systems team will be taking a sample to determine whether or not the fazenda's water is potable. 

In kitchen news - there was a breakthrough - using avocado as a sweet. Suene, one of the cooks, mixed a batida of avocados, milk, ice, and sugar. It gets our highest recommendations.