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May 11th – 15th: Digging, Formwork, Rebar Cages, Footings, and Rain!

posted May 26, 2012, 12:39 PM by Julie Bateman   [ updated May 26, 2012, 6:35 PM ]
It’s been a downpour in the Pantanal! In the two summers I’ve spent here, I’d seen maybe five minutes of drizzle, and we’ve now had four rainy, rainy days. It definitely hasn’t stopped our crew though, we’ve been powering through our objectives, so much so that we are now running a bit short on materials. Our crew for the water tower totals six people, the first two were here for construction of PCER in summer 2010 - James Chesnut (U-M Masters Architecture ’11), Alli Cruz (U-M Anthropology ’11), Jim Rasche  (Computer Science ’14), Alistair Hayden (U-M Geology ’11, Boston University Masters Candidate), Chris Hannaford (Albion Psychology ’11). Chris Hannaford is EMT trained, which is a great ease of mind as the hospital is about 3 hours away when the road is dry, and when it’s wet it adds eight to infinity hours. The biosand water filter team originally intended to leave on Sunday, but our Kombi, Bela, fishtailed for the first 200 feet, and their departure was set back until Tuesday afternoon.

Our partner is an eco-tourism lodge, Jaguar Ecological Reserve, which has been especially incredible this week, as there are no tourists and we have the lodge all to ourselves. We’ve been making pancakes and slathering them in peanut butter (we have at three 4-lb tubs), and Miltão, the cook, has been generously supplementing our rice and beans with beef, piranha soup, and delicious squash that comes from a ranch just down the road.


Great progress has been made on the tower, and there have already been several design iterations. As expected, ground conditions altered the design. The Pantanal had a very weak rainy season, and as a result the water has very, very high iron content. We have adjusted our system and the tower to be able to handle the worst known water, more to come on this later. Currently, we are driving/fishtailing our way to a nearby eco-lodge for our drinking water. The plan was also originally to build two water towers, a supply tower at JER and another for gravity feed tower at PCER. We have decided that we can better handle filtration and supply PCER more efficiently by building a taller tower with a more extensive filtration system at JER as there is already a pipe that runs the approximately 200 yards to PCER.


The cloud cover and rain have been optimal for working, and our team has cruised through several stages. We’ve laid out the site and dug six footings, built wood formwork and rebar cages for the six columns, wrestled the 17’ tall rebar cages into the footings, and are halfway through pouring concrete into the footings. The footings are no small business as four of them are 2’ by 2’ and about 2’ deep; and two of them are 3’ by 3’ and 2’ deep. Fortunately, we’ve been able to utilize a lot of the knowledge from building PCER as Chesnut wrote down several shortcuts that local builders taught us.


We look forward to posting more about installation of E-MAGINE’s internet system, and getting shots of construction that involve activities more activities ground level.