North Fort ribbon cutting completes Fort Polk’s green sand filtration
The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 6. The center will improve the quality of life for Soldiers, Family members and civilian workers, as well as rotational troops who train at the JRTC. (Photo Credit: Chuck Cannon) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT POLK, La. — The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 6 on North Fort Polk for the installation’s fourth and final green sand filtration system, the last three part of a $21 million project to improve the quality of life for Soldiers, Family members and civilian workers, as well as rotational troops who train at the JRTC.

The North Fort plant, along with two plants on South Fort and one in the North Fort housing area, filters magnesium and iron from Fort Polk’s underground aquifers, removing the brown coloration from the water.

Nathan Jernigan, Directorate of Public Works Operations and Maintenance Division chief, said the green sand filtration system is important to water quality on the installation.

“This one in the North Fort cantonment area completes the project,” Jernigan said. “It benefits our rotational units as they draw water for their training, that is free from iron and manganese and the brown water that comes with it. It also benefits any facility here on North Fort cantonment.”

The first plant was built in the 1990s and ran for about 10 years. In 2014, American Water was asked to get the plant back up and running to see if it was a viable way to combat the brown water on Fort Polk.

After proving successful in the North Fort housing area, the current project was approved, and construction began in 2019. Two plants were constructed in the South Fort cantonment area, followed by the North Fort cantonment area.

“This completes the installation,” Jernigan said.

Col. Sam Smith, commander, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Polk, said the ribbon cutting was a great day for Fort Polk residents, workers and visitors.

“Water quality varies from place to place, depending on the condition of the source from which it is drawn and the treatment it receives,” Smith said. “We have always met the EPA regulations for our water, but the color has not been ideal. Today this changes.”

Smith said the Fort Polk command team takes water quality seriously and the safety of Soldiers, Families and civilians is their number one priority.

“Ensuring we provide high-quality water service is our business,” Smith said. “The water is monitored and tested at multiple points throughout the process of drawing it from its source, treating it to meet drinking water standards, and distributing it.”

American Water treatment plant operators and the Directorate of Public Works perform sophisticated drinking water testing and analysis and Fort Polk’s drinking water scores among the highest of all water companies.

Sean Wheatley, vice president of American Water Military Service Group, said his company enjoys its working relationship with Fort Polk.

“It’s great to come here today and unveil the new treatment plant,” Whitley said. “We’re excited to support the warfighters and their Families and are concerned about their health and welfare. We’re happy to be part of the team here at Fort Polk.”

Since 1941 Camp Polk — now Fort Polk —has encountered brown water given the high manganese and iron in the Louisiana environment.

Smith said thanks to the partnership with the local community, the Army and American Water, the corner is turned on addressing the color of Fort Polk’s water.

“We have the means with investments from the Army and the partnership with American Water to improve our water quality,” Smith said. “With the opening of this North Fort treatment plant, we will eliminate 99% of the brown water that is caused by the high iron and manganese. This is a significant advancement and development for our installation. We owe the best water quality for our Soldiers, Families, civilians and today our Army and partnerships have delivered.”