Wastewater Treatment for a Coffee Processing Mill in Nicaragua: A Service-Learning Design Project
An undergraduate capstone design project team consisting of candidates for the BS degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering and faculty designed a wastewater treatment facility for a coffee processing mill in rural Nicaragua. The team visited Nicaragua to interview the client community, survey the actual site, and hold discussions with local development agencies, agricultural cooperatives, and potential contractors. Three alternative designs were developed, and the community chose one involving a settling basin and a series of three infiltration pits. The treatment system is expected to meet MARENA discharge standards for pH, turbidity, and chemical oxygen demand (COD) of discharge wastewater. The project team further secured sufficient funding from Tetra Tech, an environmental consulting firm, to build the coffee mill and the water treatment facility. On a subsequent visit, the mill and treatment facility were seen to be well constructed and functional. Several important lessons regarding international service learning design projects were learned: the need for a large cost overrun buffer; the utility of having contributors on-site during both important decision making stages and construction; the value of working with local organizations to facilitate remote work projects; the possibility of private sponsorship and partnership for charitable projects; and the need to work with the community to design and select appropriate technologies.
green coffee; coffee processing; wastewater treatment; engineering design; service learning