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1,000 Wells to Be Dug in Ghana Using New Procedure : Team Hopes Drilling Method Will Hold Water

Times Staff Writer

A 40-man drill team will go through its paces in Ghana next month, but it’s not a frivolous exercise.

The group will travel through the underdeveloped central African nation, drilling about 1,000 wells using a procedure that if successful could serve as a prototype for future water development projects.

World Vision, a Christian worldwide relief and development organization, is sending the team, complete with two mobile, folding dwelling units and a ship container fitted with a kitchen, organizers said.

The $7-million plan will take as long as three years, said Julian Pitchford, a World Vision water development specialist and “the guy who dreamed this up.”

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The Monrovia organization showed off its transportable drilling unit Thursday, including a 3,000-square-foot base camp, at Stone Container Co. in Fullerton, co-developers of the structure. Richard Stone (no relation to the Stone of the container company), president of World Shelters, the company that built the two foldable camp buildings that are made of coated fiberboard to resist the heavy rains in Ghana.

Traveling like nomads, the team will move from one well site to the next throughout the rugged country in 10 trucks, including four-wheel-drive pickups, to carry heavy drilling equipment. Most of the equipment will be shipped next week to Ghana, said Jerry Kitchel, a World Vision spokesman.

Builders said the structure, the largest of its kind, will have no problems handling the warm temperatures, high humidity and 40 inches of yearly rainfall that the team expects to encounter.

To Peter Cena, a pump engineer and supervisor of the team, the three-year stint will offer a repeat of the climate he encountered when he fought in Vietnam. But a bigger challenge will be adjusting to being away from his wife and three young daughters for so long.

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“It’s going to be hard,” said his wife, Laurie. “I’ll miss him. I’ll have to mow the lawn,” she added, joking.

She said the Fontana family is resigned to the separation because “it’s got to be worth the effort.” If he did not go, the family may later regret passing up the opportunity to serve others, she said.

“The Lord called us to do it,” Peter Cena said in explaining his motivation. The Rialto Bible Fellowship member said that so far he is the only American on the team of Ghana nationals.

In the end, Pitchford said, each well will supply enough water for 4,000 to 5,000 villagers. Current water distribution in Ghana is so poor that 40% of children 5 and under living in the southern jungles die from diseases brought about by poor sanitation, Pitchford said. In the northern savanna, the mortality rate is 33%.

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The sanitation situation is “grim in all areas,” he said. “The infrastructure . . . has collapsed.”


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