By Capt. Mike BarthAugust 14, 2012
CAMP SABALU-HARRISON, Afghanistan -- A team of highly qualified Sailors here are currently maintaining the vital process of nanofiltration that enables groundwater from Parwan province to be utilized in the day-to-day operations of the Detention Facility in Parwan.
Chief Petty Officer Andrew Anderson, supply lead, Task Group Trident, supervises a team of Sailors responsible for running a water plant here, and maintaining a holding tank they call Big Blue that supplies disinfected, non-potable water to the DFIP.
"The job we do of monitoring and producing water is very important," said Anderson. "Every person, our service members, counterparts and detainees, need water, and the constant production of water for the DFIP is crucial to the success of the mission."
Task Group Trident is a subordinate unit of Task Force Protector. Protector is the unit responsible for the secure and humane care, custody and control of all the detainees in the DFIP. Though water production is not the first thing that typically comes to mind when one thinks of detention operations, the very ground work for providing humane care, custody and control is based on water production. Without a sustainable water source, the personnel in and around the facility would be without showers, working toilets, laundry services or fire suppression capabilities.
"The lack of water can create a volatile environment inside the facility and place the detainees and guard force at risk," said Lt. Col. Kenneth J. Tauke, commander, Task Force Tar Heel. Tar Heel oversees the day-to-day operations of the DFIP.
To avoid an incident, Anderson and his team are on call 24 hours a day to quickly react to any issues involving water production.
"The Sailors selected to operate the water producing unit are Sailors who have experience and training acquired from their Navy schools and shipboard experience," said Anderson, discussing the challenges of water production in Afghanistan. "All of their experience prior to this mission was aboard a ship."
Nanofiltration is a filtration process in which a fluid is encouraged to pass over a membrane that acts like a sieve to separate out impurities. The membrane blocks impurities in the fluid, allowing only the fluid to pass through, while trapping undesirable materials on the other side, according to wiseGEEK.com.
The water purification system is not without complications. According to Anderson, some of the biggest hurdles come during the winter when the pipes freeze and crack. The system works well with maintenance, but finding replacement parts is difficult and Anderson's team understands that they must maintain the purification system.
"If an item or section breaks, we don't have on-hand backup parts," said Anderson. "If we don't fix it quickly, the plant will not produce water, which impacts the DFIP greatly."
Task Group Trident will continue to maintain the water purification plant here until the Afghan National Army unit assigned to the DFIP is trained and capable of maintaining the system.
"The Sailors and I take great pleasure in maintaining the water plant like we were taught aboard ships and engineering spaces," said Anderson while discussing his team's impact on the Protector mission. "Our small part maintaining the water plant, we do with great pride."