Penn Yan men work for clean water

Gwen Chamberlain
Leon Fontier with a village leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

They are surrounded by millions of gallons of clean, fresh water of the Finger Lakes, but two Penn Yan men have the water woes of other countries on their minds.

With the help of some friends, Leon Fontier has launched a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting the curse of waterborne diseases in DR Congo.

Meanwhile, John Long is leaving for Thailand on Sept. 28 where he will join a crew of Team Rubicon volunteers to travel into Burma to install a solar-powered fresh water system for a village of Karen refugees.

DR Congo

"My grown children, both born and raised here in Western New York, always had a desire to explore my country of birth." said HTSC founder and Executive Director Leon Fontier. "In 2010, we all traveled together to the Democratic Republic of Congo. This trip was an eye opener, we witnessed the extreme poverty of the Congolese people. The DR Congo is one of the least developed countries in the world, and upon my return to the USA, I just could not stop thinking about how I could help. I needed a conduit to transfer resources to improve the health and well-being of the people of the Congo."

In DR Congo 50 million people lack clean water to drink and many more have no toilets at all. Drinking contaminated water causes so many diseases and mortality, especially for children under the age of 5, explains Fontier.

Fontier's dream became reality with the help of generous individuals, the founding board members: Joan Bozman of Hammondsport, Archana Prakash of New York City, Gunther Keil of Trumansburg, Steve Graff of Baldwinsville, Roy Yarnell of Greenwood and Corning, Lou Vogel of Hector and Heather Scott of Trumansburg.

Fontier holds an associate degree in tropical husbandry. He is retiring from a long career as the owner of Fontier Designs, inc, a metal working business based in Penn Yan.

Habitat Technologies Solutions for the Congo (HTSC ) became incorporated as a 501(c)(3) international non-profit humanitarian organization in July.

HTSC is determined to improve the health and habitat of rural people in the DR Congo through the transfer of sustainable and appropriate technologies for drilling wells, building latrines and hygiene education.

HTSC is headquartered in Penn Yan, and its website can be visited at


When John Long, a former a Navy Seal, traveled to Haiti a few years ago to help build treatment centers for cholera victims, he also helped solve some clean water problems through connections here in the Finger Lakes. Other Team Rubicon volunteers remembered his help, and he was asked to help solve the clean water problems of a village of about 100 refugees.

He and his crew will take a specially-made solar powered pump system to the village and construct a water delivery system that will serve the village with minimal maintenance.

The solar-powered system will be used during the dry season to bring water from a well through buried PVC pipe to a central location. An alternative system that will collect rainwater through a series of gutters connected to the large tin roofs will be used during the rainy season.

While in Burma, members of the Rubicon crew will set up medical clinics to provide care as well.

Team Rubicon is a fairly new organization made up of retired veterans who want to use their logistical skills to aid others around the world.

Long has built a business around skills he learned as a Seal and the need to maintain water filtration systems in the Finger Lakes. He holds two patents in the U.S. and Canada and continues to make about 500 dives per year to work on water systems.

Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with medical professionals to rapidly deploy emergency response teams into crisis situations.

For details and to help support Long's trip: /fundraise?fcid=207390

For more about Team Rubicon: