True
P&G

On a trip to Gambia in early 2014, Bianca Griffith visited a local wastewater dump with an enormous problem.

A friend of hers who works in government wanted her to see the Kotu Ponds in Gambia — the largest wastewater facility in the country — because recently, it couldn't handle its load. This meant that waste was overflowing onto the coast and surrounding areas, destroying the environment and spreading disease to animals, produce, and people.

"It's basically these giant lagoons filled with solid waste," Griffith recalls. "It looked like an island of trash."

She wanted to help.

Griffith is the co-founder and CEO of Agua Inc., a company that provides sustainable wastewater treatment systems in developing nations.

Established in 2013 with her fellow founder and COO Pedro Ortiz, the Agua Inc. team has installed over 200 water treatment systems around the world, some of which were completed before they had even formed a company. To date, they've done work everywhere from Kenya to Mali to the Dominican Republic.

CEO Bianca Griffith with COO Pedro Ortiz. Image via Agua Inc., used with permission.

Gambia, however, didn't have the resources to install a new system of their own, so, in mid-2014, Griffith and her colleagues established Agua Gambia Ltd., a subsidiary of Agua Inc. in partnership with the government of Gambia. By June 2015, after securing the proper licenses and contracts, they were officially in charge of the wastewater facility.

Unlike other projects, rather than just selling and installing their technology, Agua Inc. would take care of the entire service. By creating this new model, they could use private investments to finance the project and improve the current sewage infrastructure to make it more affordable, sustainable, and most importantly, 100% natural — something severely lacking in the developing world.

And how were they going to do this? With the help of good ol' green plants, of course.

Images via Agua Inc., used with permission.

Their method — called ABIS (Aquatic Biological Integrated Systems) — is a completely natural approach to waste management. It utilizes plants called macrophytes that have evolved to survive in waters where there is a lot of contamination and waste, explains Griffith.

These plants can absorb oxygen from the atmosphere and inject it into the water through their roots. This, in turn, helps creates an ecosystem where helpful bacteria can thrive and break down the harmful contaminants that they come across. While this is happening, the plant also absorbs nutrients from the water, purifying it.

In order to maximize how much surface area these plants can cover, Agua Inc. uses Agua Bio-Matrixes, which are devices that hold the plants in place and keep them floating at the surface level. This reduces the risk of clogging and allows the roots to increase their treatment capacity as they clean the water.

"We can do the same processes that a conventional wastewater treatment facility is able to do, these expensive mechanized ones, but do it without any energy inputs and without any chemicals," explains Griffith.

In addition to improving the environment, Agua Inc. also empowers the local community.

"We're trying to take the sewage facility and turn it into a garden and public space — make it beautiful," says Griffith. You see, Kotu is one of the premier tourist spots in Gambia, so by transforming the area that was once a sewage treatment area, they have the potential to usher in a more fruitful economy.

Image via Agua Inc., used with permission.

On top of that, Agua Inc. also ensures that the community is a big part of their growth. That's why 90% of their staff are locals, trained to take on the variety of roles needed in the waste management process. They also receive health insurance, more than standard pay, financial aid for additional studies, and opportunities for growth within the company.

Griffith hopes they can bring the water treatment technology to other places that need it soon.

That's the ultimate goal, she says.

Of course, no two places are exactly the same. But if their experience in Gambia has shown anything, it's that they can take a sewage system that's destroying the Earth and burdening the community and turn it into one that empowers locals, creates jobs, enriches the environment, and is sustainable for generations to come.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

Keep Reading Show less

Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

Keep Reading Show less
Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

Keep Reading Show less