SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- In the western part of Puerto Rico, near the coastal towns of Aguadilla, Isabela, and Quebradillas, water treatment specialists from the 105th Quartermaster Water Purification and Distribution Company, Puerto Rico Army National Guard, are helping their neighbors by purifying water from the river and the ocean.
As clean water has become scarce after the chaos caused by Hurricane Maria, which made landfall September 20 on the island, these Soldiers were called to active duty to perform a critical mission for the island: provide potable water for the surrounding communities.
Staged underneath an overpass on Route 2 near Quebradillas, Pfc. Francisco Morales and Spc. Reynaldo Sotomayor, along with several members of the 105th, set up and operate a water purification station. From a hose that leads from the banks of the Guajataca River, a pump works vigorously as it pushes water up to a 3000 GPH Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit. Inside the ROWPU, 3,000 gallons of river water is cleaned hourly and made safe for consumption.
Morales said the unit has distributed more than 12,000 gallons to the local communities around Isabela and Quebradillas. In addition, as word had gotten around of the unit's operations, many residents drove their vehicles to the 105th's location with empty water containers. "When they come here, we fill their containers with the water we just cleaned and send them on their way," said Morales.
Several miles from the river location, more Puerto Rico Guardsmen have set up two ROWPU stations near the ocean by Aguadilla. At this location, the unit can produce about 2,000 gallons of potable water from the ocean. Staff Sgt. Victor Quintero, the unit's non-commissioned officer in charge, said that salt water takes longer to purify, but with two teams of water treatment specialists, they are pumping clean water for the local community until it gets too dark to continue operations.
Currently, the location they are at has no electrical power and they are working in shifts during the daytime, ensuring that the Soldiers are taking care of themselves during the hot and humid day.
"My family doesn't have water where I live," said Pvt. Kaira Perez, who has been at that location for two weeks. "This mission feels good because I'm helping by providing water to those who really need it."
On that day, Perez and her team produced more than 30,000 gallons of potable water that were distributed to hospitals, schools and municipalities around Aguadilla, Aguada, Moca, Isabela and Rincon.
It's a true effort of neighbors helping neighbors.