By Capt. Jeffrey Witherspoon and Maj. Courtney L. Abraham
09.20.2009 CAMP DHI QAR, Iraq – Soldiers from 121st Brigade Support Battalion conducted sustainment training on the reverse osmosis water purification unit for the 10th Iraqi Army Division water purification teams.
The training was conducted at the request of the 10th IA Div. commander following several Soldiers and leaders expressing concerns of contaminated or salty water.
The BSB senior water purification noncommissioned officer, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Tellez, from El Paso, Texas, and his team met with the Iraqi water purification team at Camp Dhi Qar to assess the problem. The meeting revealed glaring issues requiring immediate attention.
Tellez, along with Sgt. Christopher Dunlop of North Richland Hills, Texas, provided the Iraqi water purification team with hands-on training, troubleshooting techniques, preventive maintenance assistance and advice on assessing supply requirements for the system.
The BSB water purification team drew water samples to identify pollution levels. The samples showed visible pollutants even prior to laboratory testing.
"The source water was terrible and it tested positive for different forms of bacteria," said Dunlop. "It could cause typhoid, because there was almost no chlorination for the water."
"Typhoid, E. coli, parasites, and cholera are all found in this water," said Capt. Jennifer Shields, brigade environmental health officer from Bradenton, Fla. "Proper operation of this water purification unit will reduce illness among Iraqi soldiers."
Due to high levels of pollutants and salt, the water was deemed unfit for consumption by U.S. standards. The team also discovered several operator errors and system faults in the water purification system.
"Once we figured out their chlorination injector wasn't working properly, we adjusted the settings on it," said Dunlop. "The samples of the water we took after that came out okay."
A second visit was made to correct the faults and train the equipment operators.
"There were cartridge filters that needed replacing, as well as reverse osmosis elements that needed to be replaced," explained Dunlop. "It was causing water to come out salty and hard. We showed them how to clean the media filters."
The senior water plant engineer informed the team the system had not been operating properly for nearly three years.
The BSB team and Iraqi ROWPU team immediately went to work on properly routing the water through the purification system. Additional problems were identified and addressed, included significant damage to piping used to carry water between stations, causing leaks and loss of pressure. The team fabricated a replacement pipe.
Follow-up sustainment training was established through partnership with the Iraqi teams to ensure that clean water would remain part of the Camp Dhi Qar's future.