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Gunnery Sgt. Wyatt Robertson, the utilities chief with Support Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), fills a water bottle from a newly-installed water pump in Kajaki, Afghanistan, Aug. 25, 2011. The pump will provide purified water to Marines standing post in the area, preventing them from having to carry five-gallon containers up 3,000 vertical feet of rugged terrain.

Photo by courtesy photo

Engineers provide purified water to remote outpost

15 Sep 2011 | Cpl. Katherine M. Solano

Up until last month, Marines operating from peaks thousands of feet high had to carry their drinking water over a two-mile round trip on a daily basis.

Engineers with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) came up with a convenient, cost-efficient solution. The 15-day project implemented a proven strategy using gravity fed hoses, transfer pumps and a lightweight water purification system.

The project required 600 man-hours, the placing of more than 1,000 feet of cable weighing approximately 6,000 pounds, and covered 3,000 feet of rugged terrain in Kajaki, Afghanistan, Aug. 10-25.

The project is a hybrid of military-grade and commercially available components, which in the long run will lead to ease of maintenance and readily available parts.

“The generator should not need to be replaced unless it breaks down, or the Marines leave,” stated Gunnery Sgt. Wyatt Robertson, the utilities chief with Support Company, 7th ESB, 2nd MLG (FWD). “The only upkeep costs for us will be generator and lightweight water purification system preventive and corrective maintenance and fuel.”

Included in the commercial equipment the unit had to order was a 230 volt, 20 horsepower, 6-foot fully submersible Franklin Electric pump, a 15 horsepower Franklin Electric transfer pump and hundreds of hose connections ranging in size and shape, explained Robertson.

“The transfer pump is electric and runs off a generator,” said Robertson, a native of Roswell, N.M. “We also set up electrical equipment [such as] switchers and breakers. We have a whole electrical room and everything can run from Observation Post Athens. The transfer pump pumps the water to about 3,000 feet across the peaks.”

The well pumps water from the lake that is created by the Kajaki Dam. A float device was crafted using four 5-gallon drums, some piping and the 20 horsepower pump, preventing the pump from resting on the bottom of the lake, therefore allowing it to pump water more efficiently.

The water is then pumped through to OP Athens, where it is purified with the lightweight purification system at a rate of 1,200 pounds per 10 hours. Afterward, it is pumped to the highest peak 3,000 feet away, called Normandy, and then gravity-fed up to a more distant peak known as Sparrowhawk West.

Using a gravity-fed system and commercial parts, as well as some parts already on-hand, the unit was able to cut costs down to $60,000-$70,000 for the initial project and future up-keep.

“Because it is a combination of military and civilian gear, by replacing some of the parts that are military with more civilian gear, we can easily transition it,” explained Lt. Col. Daniel H. Dubbs, commanding officer of 7th ESB, 2nd MLG (Fwd.), originally of Villa Ridge, Mo. “It’s all about being able to transition it to Afghan forces, Afghan civilians, whoever it might be that’s going to operate security and operate the dam area up there.”


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