Civil Engineering Students better the lives of Vinton Residents
ANDREA ACOSTA | July 24, 2013
Four Civil Engineering students, Aaron Arce, Jesus Placencia, Jorge Velarde and Barbara Aguilera, along with Master of Arts in Sociology student Tali Castillon and Mariela Bustillos, Environemtal Science student, were chosen to intern on a project titled Healthy Vinton, through the Center for Environmental Resource Management (CERM) at UTEP, the Border Environment Cooperation Commission, and the Pan American Health Organization under the supervision of CERM Director William Hargrove Ph.D., and Research Assistant professor, Patricia Juarez Ph.D.
This collaboration with the Village of Vinton will help to identify the health impacts related to water and sanitation through a Health Impact Assessment. The project's purpose is to visit neighborhoods and collect water samples from their wells through the kitchen tap, so they can be analyzed at the El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) for various contaminants.
The College of Engineering students have brought a high level of professionalism and energy to this highly visible project, according to Hargrove.
"Our Health Impact Assessment Demonstration Project in Vinton is establishing a model for assessing the public health impacts of infrastructure improvement projects in the border region," Hargrove said.
According to Barbara Aguilera, senior civil engineering major and current intern, the goal is to provide the residents of Vinton, adequate information on their water so they will be able to go out to important decision gatherings with more confidence.
"This village has had problems with the water before," Aguilera said. "With El Paso's arid climate, not only do they run the risk of their wells drying out but they also risk their health by drinking contaminated water."
Another problem Vinton faces is having the City Council approve a new water infrastructure system that will deliver safe water from EPWU, Aguilera said.
"We are hoping that our work over this three-month period will have a positive impact on this community," Aguilera said.
According to Juarez, not only is the community learning how the systematic collection of data could help them understand the health risks about water and sanitation, but students are learning through the process as well.
"They are learning the complexities of decision making processes according to a framework of respect, justice and confidentiality," Juarez said. "The importance of integrating students in a community assessment is recognized in this project as a two-way learning experience; ultimately, engineering students are offering their knowledge and skills learned at UTEP."
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