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U.S. Water Purifiers Bring Life to Honduran Towns

By Spc. Marimer Navarrete and Pfc. Chrishaun Peeler
American Forces Press Service

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, Nov. 19, 1998 – "Water is life," La Libertad Mayor Cesar Augusto Andino Ortega said as U.S. soldiers began distributing the only drinkable water his little town had seen since Hurricane Mitch swept through.

The 11 soldiers, from Joint Task Force-Bravo's Headquarters and Supply Company here, arrived Nov. 13 with a reverse- osmosis water purification unit and began cleaning water drawn from nearby rivers and streams.

"Since the mission began four days ago, we have distributed over 12,000 gallons of water," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Padilla, in charge of the La Libertad water mission. "As a soldier and a Puerto Rican, I feel proud to help the Hondurans, because these people shouldn't continue using this contaminated water that can make them sick."

Mitch earlier this month left La Libertad's 11,000 residents with nothing but contaminated water sources. The town is just one of many around the country that has benefited from U.S. water purification units.

"It's great we can help give these people a basic need of life," said Sgt. Michael Jones of Fort Eustis, Va. "The water they have (in their homes) comes out brown. Now, because of us, they have clean water." He said he and his team provided 35,000 gallons of water to the town of Comayagua on another mission and they are scheduled to visit other communities.

"We're out here providing water from sun up to sun down," said Spc. Patrick Dryer, a water purification specialist from Fort Hood, Texas. "This water is almost better than bottled water, and the people are very grateful." Citizens of all ages bring myriad containers to carry water back to their homes, he said.

The praise of Dagoberto Orellava, a La Libertad resident for 30 years, was typical. "We are very grateful for the Army. Our water is contaminated, and when the Army brings clean water it makes us feel secure," he said. "Now we have better water than before and we don't have to worry about getting sick from the water."

In reverse osmosis, the dirty water is pumped into a filtering machine with chemicals that bind with or remove particles and other impurities. The cleaned water is then pumped into portable tanks and moved to distribution points. A purifier can clean about 600 gallons of water an hour.

Hurricane Mitch relief distribution statistics, as of Nov. 17:

94,500 pounds of medical supplies

2,340,000 pounds of food

554,200 pounds of clothing, mattresses, plastic tarps, diapers and other supplies

69,700 gallons of water distributed

1,759 people moved

2,146 people medically treated

160 fixed-wing airlift missions

330 helicopter missions

[Compiled from dispatches by Spc. Marimer Navarrete, 113th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Puerto Rico National Guard; and Pfc. Chrishaun Peeler, 49th Public Affairs Detachment (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C. Both are assigned

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