Monthly Archives: November 2013

Progress report


It’s been a while since my last update about my volunteer work (here, here and here).  Today, I’m happy to report, things have been much better for a while.  The GC-MS is up and running (decently well), stable Helium supply has been found, and the whole analysis procedure is starting to take shape.  So, I’m doing much better in my little lab.  So well in fact that, I think it’s time I crawled out of here and explored the “real world” a bit, because how much can you really know about what needs to be analyzed and how to save the world by being cooped up in a lab all day?

And thus was born my Thanthilimale Social Survey Project.  Thanthilimale is a small (mostly agricultural) community about an hour north-northwest of Anuradhapura.  The goal is to embed myself in the community, survey their water supplies and observe how they interact with them.  My hope is that this will give me more insight into the possible causes (and therefore solutions) to the high rates of Chronic Kidney Disease plaguing some parts of this island.  It will last about 2 to 3 weeks, maybe longer depending on funds.

I leave tomorrow!  Wish me luck!


前回の活動アップデートよりだいぶ時間が経ちましたね(herehere and here)。色々進んでます。GS-MSは立ち上がり、ヘリウムの供給も安定しました。分析プロシージャも出来上がってきてます。なので活動をラボから外へ広げようかと考えだしました。目的地はタンティリマレと言う小さな農村。目的はその町に住み、村民・環境・水・仕事の関係性を測り腎臓病の原因を少しでも分かることが出来ないかなと。。。まぁ、ラボにこもってても出来ないこと。2~3週間いるつもり。。。






Almost nightly power outages due to thunderstorms.


There is something romantic and discordant about blogging by candle light…



How to make water


Recently took a tour of the newest water treatment plant on the Kelani River.  I realized I talk about water a lot, but most people don’t really know the process.  To put it simply, it is essentially just filtering and disinfecting.  Most of the technology is well established (meaning old), but is quite effective.  Here are the (very) general steps.


The Kelani River.  Typical river with moderate to high turbidity and hardness.

The Kelani River. Typical river with moderate to high turbidity and hardness.


River water enters the plant at 8000 cubic meters per hour. That’s 8,000,000 liters every 60 minutes (or about 3 Olympic size pools).

See how the water gets clearer from Right to Left? Right - In a process called flocculation, chemicals are added to make the suspended particles clump together Left - The clumps become big and heavy and sink to the bottom

See how the water gets clearer from Left to Right?
Left- In a process called flocculation, chemicals are added to the raw water to make the suspended particles clump together.
Right – The clumps become big and heavy and sink to the bottom, leaving clear water.

Clarification - The clumps sink, and the clear water is skimmed off the top.

Clarification – The  clear water is skimmed off the top.


The clarified water is gathered…

From here, the water is sent to more filters, chlorine disinfection and finally to a storage tank for piped delivery.  I have no pictures of the filter since it was build underground at this particular plant.  A plant like this would typically cost about $50 million to $100 million.


Happy Birthday to ME!


My birthday at the lab.  My first day at the lab was on my birthday last year.  So they gave me a small welcome and birthday party.  It’s been exactly a year since, and we repeat the process.  In Sri Lanka, it is customary for the birthday person to bring a cake for everybody else.  I also made onigiri for everyone (no pictures…sorry).  They gave me a wallet…I don’t know why.  But I am using it.



Guess what song it’s playing?