When Mark Hogg was studying business management at Belmont University in Nashville in the 1980s, he took a mission trip to West Africa to build a dam for a lake so it could supply more water during the rainy season. Five hours from civilization, he watched villagers trek to the lake and haul water back home. The image and the angst stayed with him. Some died from the unpotable water. “Why can’t these ordinary people have access to the tools they need for their own water, health and sanitation?” he wondered.
He graduated college, moved to Louisville to attend seminary, started his own construction company, got married, worked as a youth minister, all the while “haunted by trying to do something for the people in the world that didn’t have access to safe water,” he said.
Mark and his wife, Marcia, started the nonprofit WaterStep in 1995. The organization’s first manufactured product was the M-100 chlorine generator, using salt, electricity and water based on science that emerged from Louisville in the late 1800s. The unit is simple to use and has a robust construction for durability. “The M-100, the heartbeat of making water safe, disinfects water to help prevent waterborne illness.”
WaterStep has served people in 55 different countries so far. The time and money it takes to travel really isn’t sustainable, so they are focusing on how to teach people virtually about WaterStep equipment and best practices. In August, WaterStep received a $25,000 grant from the Louisville Water Foundation and a matching grant from local philanthropist Sue Badgett to fund the expansion of their Virtual Training Center. “Our goal is to be the most effective coordinator of safe water, sanitation and health tools and practices around the world,” Mark said.
“We have a tremendous, amazing network of folks that would respond on any given day to help us solve problems,” Mark said. “Louisville Water Company, our Metro Sewer District and GE Appliance Park are very close friends.”
When Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana, Mark and several other members of WaterStep went down to Lake Charles with a WOW Cart. The patented “Water on Wheels” disaster response system is a portable, mini water treatment system designed by Kurtis T. Daniels, Vice President of Field and Training Operations.
Other patented products include the BleachMaker, the WaterBall and the new PDG, a Personal Disinfectant Generator that uses table salt and tap water. The spray bottle charges in 8 minutes with a USB plug to create “a bleach disinfectant solution to use in your home, office or schools,” Mark said. “It’s a sweet little tool.”
WaterStep has 11 full-time and part-time employees, and tons of volunteers. If you can organize a shoe drive, sign up online. This important fundraiser collects new or gently used athletic shoes for WaterStep, who earns money selling them to exporters that then sell the shoes around the world. “A lot of our volunteers do shoe drives at their schools, businesses or churches,” Mark said. “At WaterStep, we understand that what we do today will make an impact 100 years from now, and will save a life today, too.”
Learn about WaterStep’s projects and shop their products at waterstep.org