BBUWP completes 3rd Annual Community Plumbing Challenge – Lowndes Signal

BBUWP completes the 3rd Annual Community Plumbing Challenge

Published on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, 8:17 am

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Randy Lorge provides hands-on training to Lowndes County high school students.

Randy Lorge (left) and Robyn Fischer (right) teach Lowndes County high school students the basics of home plumbing inspection.

Generations of Lowndes County residents have lived with failing plumbing and sanitation systems, but many are seeing those circumstances change thanks to a local program and the help of some of the area's younger citizens.

The Blackbelt Unicorporated Wastewater Program (BBUWP) completed its 3rd Annual Community Plumbing Challenge April 8-10. As part of the challenge, high school students from Calhoun School and Central High School conducted home assessments to repair or replace broken residential plumbing systems.

Perman Hardy, BBUWP president, said the program is a partnership between BBUWP, global sanitation manufacturer LIXIL and the International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Foundation (IWSH), aimed at eliminating inequalities in sanitation in the Black Belt region .

“The program has partnered with BBUWP to create change not only outside of people’s homes, but inside as well,” Hardy said. “We are modernizing people’s plumbing systems to reduce water consumption in their homes and, in some cases, resolve dangerous situations.”

Students Ricky Bender, Danjuma Gordon, Jaden Middleton, Ayala Johnson, Demarcus McCord and Haigler Johnson, Jr. received instruction on identifying home plumbing concerns, conducting the plumbing survey and working with homeowners. By working with local plumbers on site, they were able to gain hands-on experience with the goal of stimulating students' interest in plumbing careers and getting involved in their own community.

The students were paid $20 an hour for their work and were accompanied by chaperones, licensed plumbers and instructors, IWSH instructors Randy Lorge and Robyn Fischer.

Jed Scheuermann and Lorge developed the customized IWSH Household PlumbingSurvey for students, which assesses plumbing systems for needed repairs, highlighting how the program provides insight into the region's current challenges and how they can be part of the solution.

“The beauty is [students] “We see the situation from a plumber’s perspective,” said Scheuermann. “They are introduced to the professions, which almost no longer happens in secondary schools these days. It’s a rewarding career and the opportunity to make a good living is unimaginable.”

Scheuermann described the student employees as hard-working and willing to take advantage of the opportunity.

“Every experience I’ve had with them has shown that they’re eager to learn,” he said. “They are like sponges; they just want to suck it up. Her attitude, her willingness to learn and go beyond her comfort zone was really refreshing.”

During the three-day training, students inspected ten homes and the effort will continue with the goal of inspecting 80 homes between April and August. Working with LIXIL, these inspections will ultimately lead to the repair of the plumbing systems in these homes.

“We are trying to start a program with BBUWP to do the inspections and coordinate plumbing repairs outside of IWSH,” said Mike Webster, senior project manager at LIXIL. “We have a plumber who was with us this week, taking the training and working with the other plumbers. We hire him to work with students to complete the assessments and repairs. Once we get everything organized and make sure it’s running smoothly, it will be called the Interior Plumbing Improvement Program (IPIP).”

The challenge is just one of several ways BBUWP is working to address Lowndes County's sanitation problems and prepare future leaders to continue the effort.

“We’re trying to get a plumbing vocational program going for the schools,” said BBUWP Executive Director Sherry Bradley. “And we’re almost there. We want these kids, if they choose not to go to four-year college, to be able to work as plumbers and make good money.”

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