Purifying flood waters
Army Sgt. Burton Atkinson, a water purification noncommissioned officer from the 132nd Quartermaster Company, North Dakota National Guard, tests samples of water that his team purified June 26 in Minot, N.D.

MINOT, N.D. (June 27, 2011) -- Water is often called a precious resource, and when floodwaters back up city water and sanitation systems and make the water unsafe to drink, residents can learn just how precious a resource it is.

That’s where people like Army Sgt. Burton Atkinson and Army Sgt. 1st Class John Halgren come in, because making dirty water safe to drink is what they and their team do, and they are doing it for the local hospital here.

“We’re purifying water for the hospital … in case the water plant has a problem,” said Halgren, a water purification specialist with the North Dakota National Guard’s 136th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

“Right now, in the city of Minot, you’re not suppose to drink the tap water,” said Atkinson, a water purification noncommissioned officer with the 132nd Quartermaster Company.

“You’re supposed to boil it, so the water has been deemed unsafe … so we set this [water purification unit] up to avoid having to go through a bunch of steps [to have clean water].”

Atkinson assures that whatever water goes through the purification unit is “decent water.”

Like many other Soldiers, he has seen a lot of calls-to-action in the last month in many parts of the state.

“We’ve been in Minot on this [mission] for about a week-and-a-half, we spent a week in Bismark, and we’ll be here for another week,” he said. “We’ve been running all sorts of missions, staying busy and doing a little bit of everything.”

Atkinson " like many other North Dakota Guard members " is no stranger to the floods that have been occurring across the state.

“I live in an evacuated area down in Velva,” he said. “As of right now, there is no water at my house, but I have everything taken out of it.”

Halgren is not from the Minot area, but said he is also experiencing flooding near his home.

Helping out and feeling a sense of contribution to the fight are what Atkinson said he enjoys most about his job as a water purification sergeant.

“It’s hard to be away from family and your home,” he said, “especially when you’re in an evacuated area … but I’m glad to be here and helping out Minot because there is really nothing I can do at my house.”

(Army Sgt. Darron Salzer writes for the National Guard Bureau.)

Page last updated Mon June 27th, 2011 at 00:00