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Drinking Water “Safe and Secure” for Deployers

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Enjoli Saunders
  • 379th AEW/PA

Water surveillance is necessary for the health and welfare of all service members. Al Udeid’s Bioenvironmental Engineering water program ensures water is safe for consumption and available for all essential base operations.

“Our water sampling ranges from routine bacteria, E.coli, PH, and residual chlorine to volatile organic compounds, lead, copper, disinfection by-products, and inorganic substances,” said Senior Airman Mizraim Diaz-Roman, bioenvironmental engineering water program manager, 379th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron. “I have not had a bad result yet. Chlorine residual in the water is the key ingredient to prevent bacteria growth and the Civil Engineering Squadron has done a great job maintaining adequate chlorine levels.”

Bioenvironmental engineering is required to test water for a multitude of chemicals similar to the requirements of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Both bottled water and municipal water from the tap are tested weekly and monthly for bacteria and acidity. Both are tested quarterly for lead and copper remnants.

The testing locations are equally as important as the test being performed.

There are two major sampling locations, the North gate, which is the entry point of the water coming from the outside source, and the bottled water storage area. The bottled water storage location is where new shipments of water are held until tested, cleared and distributed for mass consumption.

According to Lt. Col. Thai Le, aerospace medicine flight commander and bioenvironmental engineer assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron, the North gate was chosen as a main point of inspection because of the low levels of chlorine, which leaves the water in an environment for bacterial growth. Past the gate, there is a water treatment facility to treat the water and attempt to alleviate any possible contaminants.

“If for any reason the results of the water sampling are positive, then water flow from that location is immediately shut down,” said Le. “At that point, we will repeatedly test the water at that location every hour or every two hours depending on the type of chemical encountered.”

Due to the extreme heat temperatures to which the water bottles are exposed, the Army Public Health Command has conducted a variety of test to ensure compliance with Food and Drug Administration’s regulations for bottled water. The companies that provide the bottles in Qatar use polyethylene terephthalate, which differs from the polycarbonate bottles that raised concerns over potential leaching of harmful chemicals.

“I have confidence in my team here and we have very sophisticated equipment that helps us determine almost any chemical agent or bacteria in the water,” said Le. “I have no worries about drinking water that has been on a pallet in the sun. I am very comfortable using both water sources, I brush my teeth with municipal (tap) water.”

Last month the base consumed 2.3 million bottles of water cleared through the bioenvironmental engineering water program.

“My favorite part of the job is knowing how big of an impact I make keeping the drinking water safe and secure for the installation,” said Diaz-Roman. “And because water is an essential asset to base operations, it is paramount that I stay focused and perform my job right each and every day!”