In the Amazon region of Ecuador, the groundwater is so contaminated with petroleum that some people are forced to drink water whose toxic stench burns their nostrils before they even get close enough to take a sip. San Jose State's student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is working with indigenous tribes in the region to find solutions for cleaning up the water.
The groundwater in the Amazon region of Ecuador was contaminated through oil drilling in the 1970s. While several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have tried to address the contamination with both family water filtration units and larger community treatment plants, many of the household units and all of the community plants are no longer working.
“I was surprised by the devastation,” says Christensen, who managed without his lost luggage during the trip. “You always hear about the pristine Amazon and the wildlife, but the region is still being attacked. I didn’t think we were going to be able to see oil, but there was crude oil on the surface of water that some people were continuing to drink. And there’s still drilling happening now.”