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Seabees Drill for Water in Iraqi Desert

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070712-01
Release Date: 7/12/2007 7:06:00 AM

By Cmdr. Christa Ford, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 28 Public Affairs

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq (NNS) -- The summer heat in the desert of Iraq can be daunting, but the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 28 drilled a well in the desert floor to help support Al Asad Air Base, June 13.

Although there are five existing wells already located on the grounds, the base also pulls 500,000 gallons of raw water from the Euphrates River every day to meet the 1.4 million gallons of raw water required for the current base population, according to Lt. Col. Larry Vaughn, of the 226th Area Support Group and director of logistics for the base.

The water from the wells and the river is collected in a reservoir where it is treated. The treated water supports not only the Al Asad Air Base, but eight forward-operating bases.

With the growing population at the base, producing adequate drinking supplies and potable water is essential to sustaining the base inhabitants. Currently, the water-bottling plant utilizes part of the base’s incoming 500,000 gallons of raw water for filtration to produce drinking water.

The goal for the new well is to provide a separate source for bottled water.

“By having a separate well as a source of water for the bottling plant, the base’s reverse osmosis water purification units (ROWPU) can process the existing well and Euphrates River water better,” said Vaughn. “The river water helps to dilute the well water which allows ROWPU processing to be more efficient.”

The new well will provide approximately 100,000 gallons of water a day for processing by the bottling plant, Vaughn explained. The bottled water is distributed to commands throughout the base and in some cases shipped to outlying posts as well.

"Water well drilling is one of those unique Seabee skills that we rarely get the chance to practice,” said Cmdr. Craig Scharton, NMCB 28 commanding officer. “Having the opportunity to drill a well for 2nd Marine Air Wing at Al Asad enabled the crew to hone their skills, while allowing the unit to make a positive contribution as a base tenant."

Drilling a well is no simple task. NMCB 28 Equipment Operator Chief Jerry Bowlby has been in charge of the latest Al Asad well project.

“The hardest part of drilling a well is getting the site prepared. We had to move a lot of gravel out of the way and there’s a lot of equipment to get set up," he said.

Two six-person teams from NMCB 28 were able to drill to a depth of 515 feet in just nine days, working around the clock in two 12-hour shifts.

For several of NMCB 28’s water well crew members, this was their first experience drilling a well. Only two of the 12 team members had previous experience. For one of the team’s assistant officers in charge, Construction Mechanic 1st Class Dennis Poppaw, this was his 24th well. This is also Poppaw’s second consecutive tour in Iraq.

NMCB 28 is part of nearly 1,100 Sailors and Marines supporting critical construction efforts in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

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