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National Guard purifies and distributes water

By Spc. Avery Cunningham | 172nd Public Affairs Detachment | Oct. 26, 2017

COMERIO, Puerto Rico — National Guardsmen are working together to supply the local area with drinking water using their reverse osmosis water purification units (ROWPU). The units supply anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 gallons of water a day. From the early morning and into the night residents with containers and tanks on their trucks make their way to receive clean water.

The 714th Quartermaster Company, 292nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Puerto Rico National Guard, operates a ROWPU capable of preparing 3,000 gallons of water an hour, and the Mobile Construction Team, 200th Red Horse Squadron, Ohio National Guard, runs a smaller ROWPU capable of filtering 1,500 gallons an hour. They are assisted by the Alpha Company, 139th Brigade Support Battalion, South Dakota National Guard, who use their load handling system compatible water tank rack (hippo) to fill water containers for residents and go on missions to smaller communities who cannot reach the area.

Along with the hippos from South Dakota, local government trucks are also working with the service members to supply water to the region.

“We supply their trucks with water, and they distribute it to the different communities,” said Spc. Jose Bonilla, 714th QC, 292nd CSSBN.

The unit has been in Comerio for three weeks and has been fighting the elements the entire time. The area still experiences occasional flooding and mudslides following heavy rain and after the unit first set-up by the river 36 hours of rainfall threatened to flood out the machines, prompting them to maneuver all of their equipment elsewhere.

As a result of the continuing natural disasters, the local water company Acueductos, tests the water every seven days for microbes and other contaminants to ensure that it is safe to drink, said Bonilla.

The challenges have not slowed down the Soldiers. Due to flooding, they moved to a new location upstream where they prepared pools to draw from.

“We fill everybody up to capacity when they show up with their gallon jugs and their tanks,” said Isaac Strickler, MCT, 200th RHS.

Many of the locals make the trip, bringing water jugs, coolers, tanks, barrels, and even rinsed out laundry detergent bottles to hold water, and they have been appreciative of all that the service members have done.

“Most of the local community has been very receptive to us coming here,” said Strickler. “They’re very happy to have us. We have people stop by, giving us hugs, giving us cokes to drink, and a few families in the local area have supplied meals.”

There’s still a need for purified water while infrastructure is repaired; the guardsmen report that they are able and willing to stay as long as their fellow Americans need support.