New Water Pipeline Established to Iraqi Army Training Base
By Elaine Eliah
Special to American Forces Press Service
KIRKUSH, Iraq, March 22, 2006 Building a 16-kilometer pipeline in eastern Iraq recently took well over its originally scheduled month and cost much more than dollars. But the water it carries will improve the quality of life for Iraqi soldiers and workers here.
Community leaders gather around March 18 as the mayor of Balad Ruz, Iraq, cuts a ribbon signaling completion of a new water pipeline between the town and the Iraqi army's Kirkush Military Training Base, 16 kilometers away. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
One hundred kilometers from Baghdad and 20 kilometers west of the Iraq/Iran border, the terrain is so desolate at Iraq's Kirkush Military Training Base that an approaching friend or foe can be seen for miles. Where ripping winds send desert sand and rooftops flying, water is as vital as ammunition for troop survival.
Even before the base was designated a training site for the new Iraqi army, its strategic position had attracted coalition forces. Several battalions settled into a military base begun more than a decade ago by a Yugoslav company and left unfinished due to the first Gulf War and subsequent world sanctions.
U.S. troops had already set up a functioning camp at the site by April 2004, when the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence contracted the civilian company ECC to renovate many of the facilities to meet the needs of anticipated Iraqi army units. Improvement began with utility upgrades. A reliable power source and distribution system were installed, as were wastewater collection and treatment facilities. A water treatment plant, reservoir, storage tower, and distribution system were constructed. The vital link for all of the latter was 16 kilometers of 16-inch high-density polyethylene pipe to connect the base to the Balad Ruz canal.
Digging began halfway between Balad Ruz and the base. Local guards monitored the area day and night to protect workers, supplies and equipment. The job had barely begun when an attack left one guard dead and an excavator destroyed, but whether the incident was insurgent activity or clan rivalry has never been determined.
The pipeline came to a standstill, even as base workers continued installing the water treatment and wastewater treatment plants. A smaller pipeline from Balad Ruz already supplied water. But with troop numbers expected to rise, base needs would soon outgrow the capacity of the old line. Engineers went back to the drawing board. New plans called for the pipeline to be buried deeper to better protect it from planted explosives.
The new plan carried other difficulties, as well. Farmers were not happy to see their fields disturbed, and diplomacy and compensation were needed before work could continue.
When work did resume, excavation began at the base end of the line. Contracted Americans took over round-the-clock security. Even the trench was at risk, offering a pre-dug location in which to plant IEDs. To prevent this possibility and to prevent security from being stretched too thin, excavators were not allowed to advance too far ahead of pipe fitters. Work continued through short cycles of dig, lay, and immediately fill.
"During the winter rainy season, it was like excavating through Jell-O," ECC Project Manager John Dordan said. "We'd pump it out after the rains and try to excavate after it dried out."
While this work was progressing, a pump house beside the canal, newly built but not yet commissioned, had an IED planted inside. Deemed too unstable to deactivate, it had to be blown in place, the building right along with it.
As part of ECC's community outreach program, ECC Project Manager James Margrave visited a makeshift town across the street from the base. Some 20,000 migrant laborers living there are a vital labor resource for the area's 51 brick factory kilns. When Margrave learned that these families relied on trucked-in water, he started asking how the 2 kilometers that separated them from the new pipeline might be bridged.
Securing water rights for this project was far more arduous than anyone anticipated and consequently, the brick factory project passed from Margrave and the original unit's civil affairs officer to various other U.S. military civil affairs personnel until it landed upon Maj. Reid E. Smith III, a civil affairs team leader. Smith explained that the brick factory pipeline ties in to the old pipeline with a 'T' connection and a smaller pipe so it doesn't divert the flow of water from the base.
The new pipeline to Balad Ruz is now complete and will begin delivering water to the Iraqi base as soon as the new pump house is up and running. Officials hope this will occur before summer, when base water consumption is traditionally high.
Leaders from the KMTB-based Iraqi army, the city of Balad Ruz, and the brick factory villagers attended the grand opening Smith and company hosted March 18. "We stayed in the background and let this be "Iraqis helping Iraqis" Smith said.
(Elaine Eliah is a communications specialist with ECC International Baghdad.)