Penn Yan man's Congo water project honored by Rotary

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Leon Fontier is second from right in the front row of men standing.

Leon Fontier of Penn Yan, who is in Africa working on improving various village water systems, reports that the Rotary District 9150 has identified his project as the most outstanind WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) during their conference in Kigali, Rwanda. Rotary District 9150 includes 10 countries: Burundi, Cameroon, Centrafrique, Congo Brazza, Gabon, Guinea, Republic

Democratic of Congo, Rwanda. Sao Tome and Tchad. “I am extremely proud of my team and the work they are doing,” he says.

Fontier, who was born in Congo, raised funds for more than two years to help construct safe water supply and sanitation systems at a school in the village of Bolenge, near where he was born. In 2012 Fontier retired from a long career as the owner of Fontier Designs, a metal working business based in Penn Yan. Since then, he’s been working on his dream through his foundation, Habitat Technologies Solutions.

His dream grew from a family trip. In 2010, Fontier took his grown children, who were born and raised in Western New York, to Congo to see the country where he was born. There, they saw the extreme poverty and poor living conditions. According to the HTS website, the lack of safe water contributes to an estimated 1.7 million deaths worldwide per year.

Support totaling $55,000 from Rotary Clubs in Penn Yan, Corning, Hornell, Elmira Heights, and the Rotary District, along with clubs in Istanbul and India will help his foundation combat these waterborne diseases.

The Rotary funds are paying for the construction of latrines, cisterns and hand washing stations, and funds from the HTS foundation paid for Fontier’s travel and living expenses. Fontier is working with the villagers to complete the concrete block latrine buildings and the 30 biosand filter systems that will provide clean drinking water in each classroom of the school.

For more information about Fontier’s foundation, and to make a contribution to his project, visit