Water flowing again at Tuwaitha plant
June 21, 2009
BAGHDAD - Looking at the murky, muddy waters of the Tigris River, it seems hard to imagine swimming in the river, much less drinking its waters. But minutes after a broken valve was repaired at the Tuwaitha Water Treatment Plant, the treated river water gushed from a pump, as crystal clear and potable as bottled water.
The Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, celebrated bringing the water treatment back to full capacity ,June 1, eight months after a broken valve at the plant's lift station reduced the water flow.
The Tuwaitha Water Treatment Plant supplies an estimated 120,000 Iraqis in Maid'in area, south of Baghdad, with potable water. The lift station, which provides pressure to keep the reservoir full, had broken a valve that prevented the plant from producing enough clean water. The "Dragon" Soldiers of the 1st Bn., 82nd FA Regt. stepped in and got their hands dirty, offering mechanical expertise to help the Iraqis repair the valve and repair electrical pump switches.
Lt. Col. Eric Schwegler, commander of the 1st Bn., 82nd FA Regt., stood with representatives from the local municipal government, the National Police and representatives from the Baghdad Ministry of Water when the moment of truth arrived to flip the switch that would turn on the repaired valve. Expectations were met when a torrent of crystal clear water poured out of the valve, sending a channel of water where the ground had been dry during the eight months that the lift station was not working.
"It feels great to see that cold, crystal water when all the other side of the plant is the murky Tigris River," said Schwegler, a native of Ozark, Ala.
In an effort to show good faith in the project, Schwegler joined the Iraqis by dipping a plastic bottle into the water and then taking a drink before the water had been tested. Schwegler said the project demonstrated cooperation between different local and national agencies to help the Iraqis of Maid'in district.
"This is kind of historic because you have the Baghdad Ministry of Water coming down to Maid'in Quada, the Maid'in Quada Council, the Jisr Diyala Council and the Jisr Diyala Water Department, all focusing their efforts on getting this treatment plant going," Schwegler said.
Schwegler added that the project, though funded by the Coalition forces, was an achievement of the Iraqi people. Local Iraqi contractors and volunteers completed the work to help the water treatment plant function properly again.
"It is absolutely great to see all these agencies in the Government of Iraq coming together to focus on a critical problem and working among themselves to address this issue," Schwegler said. "They saw a problem and formed a solution to meet the critical needs."
Shakyh Qais Shater, a tribal leader in of Maid'in Quada, said he was pleased with the contributions of the 1st Bn., 82nd FA Regt. He said repair of the treatment plant was an urgent need, as Iraqis in the area were forced to retrieve water from a water tank truck instead of getting water in their home.
"I saw many women carrying the containers on their heads to get water. That was a shame," said Shater. "We are very happy to find our friends like Lt. Col. Schwegler and his men to help our people."
Schwegler and the delegation of local and national leaders climbed to the top of a reservoir between the pump station and the lift station to observe huge concrete basins that had been empty earlier. Officials from the Baghdad Ministry of Water took samples of the water for testing, to make sure the filters and water treatment equipment were properly purifying the water.
According to Schwegler, the water treatment plant functioning is another sign that the Iraqis are taking more responsibility for their country's needs.
"The government of Iraq saw the potential to address a critical shortcoming and has stepped up as a responsible government to take care of its own people," Schwegler said. "I think the note you take away is the needs of the people are being met by the Government of Iraq."
In many meetings with local Iraqi leaders, potable water was a need constantly expressed to the Dragons of 1st Bn., 82nd FA Regt. Now, with the water flowing again, that need has been met thanks to the cooperation of American Soldiers and Iraqi leaders.