LEWISTON — A professor from Lewiston-Auburn College is trying to bring drinking water to an extraordinary corner of the world surrounded by ocean: the Galapagos Islands.

The problem is a naturally acidic water supply, too harsh to either bath in or drink.

“Imagine that,” professor Ira Levine said. “One of the most famous island sets in the world and all of the water is polluted.”

By this summer, Levine and his wife, Laurie, hope to see water purification equipment installed on the islands as the first major initiative completed by the group Professors Without Borders.

Ira Levine is a founder of the organization and its executive director. Laurie Levine, the former director of the Androscoggin Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, has signed on as a development director.

The couple, who live in Poland, first visited the Galapagos Islands last August. They found a place where everyone boiled their water rather than suffer the consequences of drinking it and getting sick. If they washed in it, they broke out in sores.

The situation is made worse with open dumps and large-scale trash incineration, sometimes done over fresh-water aquifers.

The Levines spent two weeks there, touring the islands once visited by Charles Darwin. They were seduced by the diversity of life there. About 97 percent of the islands’ land mass is preserved by the Ecuadorian government as a national park.

The remaining 3 percent is occupied by roughly 20,000 people. The largest city, Santa Cruz, has a population of about 13,000.

There are few freshwater springs and only a single small lake among the archipelago’s islands.

“You think of this pristine place with nature,” Ira Levine said Thursday. “It was completely foreign to me that they’d have cities there.”

Levine’s group was contacted about the problem last year, only months after it was formed.

Professors Beyond Borders hatched as a project by several Fulbright New Century Scholars, including Levine, an aquaculture expert.

Levine has assisted on post-earthquake efforts in Chile, and the organization has sent people to help in Haiti.

Levine said he sees a future for the organization in projects such as the Galapagos water issue. Through work with various foundations and private companies, he hopes to have large water purifiers in place to treat much of the islands’ water. To him and his group, the project is doable.

“Professors Beyond Borders is not looking to be a nongovernmental organization on the ground for years at a time,” he said. “We’re looking for discrete problems that acute efforts can make better.”

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