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Water charity work earns honor

– Local legislators honored City Utilities employees Wednesday for their work to bring clean water to developing nations.

State Sen. Tom Wyss and Rep. Phil GiaQuinta presented resolutions passed by the General Assembly to honor City Utilities employees who traveled to Guatemala in 2012 to dig a well and provide clean water in thevillage of La Vega.

On Saturday, another team leaves for a similar project in El Salvador.

“This is now part of the official record,” GiaQuinta said of the resolutions. “We’re just very proud of you.”

Also sponsoring the measure in the House were Rep. Dan Leonard, Rep. Martin Carbaugh and Rep. Casey Cox.

“I can’t say enough thanks to you,” Wyss told the team.

The Guatemala team included Matthew Wirtz, Mike Kiester, Ben Groeneweg and Ted Nitza.

“This is our opportunity to give back,” Nitza said. “And it’s truly an honor for us to represent the city of Fort Wayne and to say this is what we can do to make the world a better place.”

La Vega is a village of about 900 people with intermittent electricity and only one well to supply clean water – and it was accessible only during the school year. Before that well was installed, children carried water from the river a couple of miles away.

The new well is accessible year-round and is deep enough to avoid contamination from the lack of sewers in the area.

The year-round well the village used before the team got there was a hand-dug well about 25 or 30 feet deep, located about 50 feet from a latrine.

Living Water International, a religious nonprofit from Houston that builds wells in developing countries, does the research and brings the drill rig, then trains the villagers on how to maintain it.