West Ashley non-profit reflects on tsunami five years later

West Ashley, SC (WCSC) - Water Missions International, a West Ashley based non-profit, reflected on their role in helping hundreds of thousand of survivors from the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on the events fifth anniversary Saturday.

"It was a race against the clock!" said George Greene, owner.

On December 26th, 2004, shock waves from an earthquake off the coast of Indonesia created a 35 foot wall of waves that crashed in to the shores of 11 different countries. While more than 200,000 died, hundreds of thousands more were victim to a storm surge up to 30 feet deep at some points.  The water, according to the World Health Organization, became a breeding ground for bacteria; cases of hepatitis and typhoid flourished.

"We make purification systems that filter water.... 99.9% of bacteria is removed," said Greene.  In more depth, each system is a series of tubes that collects water from existing sources.  The contaminated water is gathered, run through the system, and stores in a large bin.  It's a process Greene and his wife, Molly, undertook in the 1990's.  While the two used backgrounds in engineering and environmental policies to produce about 20 systems each year, mostly for developing towns in Central America, their productivity boomed following the tsunami.

"We pretty much worked around the clock," said Molly Greene.  "We made 108 system, all with volunteers, in about one month."

Each finished product purified 10 gallons of water per minute.  The Greene's say that is enough to sustain 3,000 people a day.

Molly says while locals were a large part of the production line, some volunteers traveled across the country; reading about Water Missions International online and feeling inclined to help.

The Greene's say shipping the systems by air was free; Fed-Ex and UPS donated shipping fees, making sure all 108 systems were delivered to areas that needed them most.

"When people hear about the conditions others... live with, they get generous, they want to help."

While they say they have yet to create a one-on-one rapport with the recipients of their systems, the Greene's are still dedicated to their craft and passion for helping others.

"We'll do this until everyone in the world has water," said George.  "[That] will probably take the rest of our lives!