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Guard Members Provide Clean Water for Storm-stricken Arkansas Town

By Air Force Maj. Keith Moore
Special to American Forces Press Service

DIERKS, Ark., April 15, 2009 – A team of five Arkansas Air National Guard airmen from the 188th Civil Engineering Squadron restored clean water yesterday to this small southwestern Arkansas community following an April 9 tornado that destroyed the town's water treatment plant.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian Sutton, a utilities systems management specialist with the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 188th Civil Engineering Squadron, connects a supply hose to a water purification unit in Dierks, Ark., April 14, 2009. The community's only water treatment facility was heavily damaged by a tornado. U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Keith Moore
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Two reverse-osmosis water purification units were used to filter water from any surface source for use as drinking water. The systems can move about 1,200 gallons per hour to support the daily needs of the community's 1,230 residents.

"On a normal day [before the storm], our system would provide 350 gallons per minute," said Jeremy Stone, the Dierks city engineer. "The Guard's system doesn't move water at that rate, but we have been using only bottled water since the storm, so this will at least restore normal flow and pressure to our town."

Dierks Mayor Terry Mounts praised the professionalism and efficiency of the Guardsmen. "They got here and set right to work," he said. "They said it would be several hours to get set up and start filtering water, but they got water moving and tested in just under one hour. The city of Dierks is just glad the Arkansas Air Guard has this capability to support our residents."

Stone said the tornado destroyed the second-floor control center of the town's water treatment facility, removing its chlorination system and leaving it without electricity to power the pumps, which bring water to nearby Lake Dierks.

Air Force Master Sgt. Kevin Rice, a utilities systems management specialist with the 188th CES, said the team practices using the reverse-osmosis system to support its regional training site at its Fort Smith, Ark., base, but this is the first time the units had been deployed to support a civilian community.

"We've utilized these units overseas, and we use them in practice to support our `bare base' training at home station, but this really makes us feel good when we can utilize the equipment to support a local community," Rice said.

Mounts said the city is requesting aid from state and federal agencies to help get the main plant back on line as quickly as possible, but had no idea how long the Guard may be needed to support the town with clean water.

(Air Force Maj. Keith Moore serves with the Arkansas National Guard.)

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