MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Pumps, hoses and generators worked together to turn water from the Pacific Ocean into the same quality that comes from a home faucet or store shelf.
Water support technicians with the Engineer Detachment, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, are responsible for maintaining and operating the Tactical Water Purification System during MEU Exercise on Red Beach, April 2-12.
During the exercise, the 15th MEU is using roughly 1,000 gallons a day for drinking and cooking. Using the TWPS, the daily requirement was produced in just about one hour.
“The engineers are the hardest working detachment in my battalion,” said Lt. Col. John J. Wiener, battalion commander, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “Whether it’s the water dogs or the combat engineers, they work until the job is done,” added Wiener, who mentioned the TWPS was used on the USS Pearl Harbor during the last deployment when the ship’s water system was down.
The process for filtering any type of water from its original source to a drinking cup is extensive.
“The water ends up tasting better than bottled water,” said Cpl. Michael A. Stempien Jr., water support technician, Engineer Detachment, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “In order to meet that standard, we start by using the dolphin strainer, where the water is sucked from the ocean to ensure any seaweed or kelp doesn’t enter the system.”
The TWPS uses a diesel powered water pump, which can pump 150 gallons per minute, to suction the water from the dolphin strainer.
“After the initial water pump, the water moves to the cyclone separator, which removes all of the sand,” said Stempien. “Then, an electric powered pump moves the water to a micro-filter feed tank, which monitors and regulates the rate the water comes in.”
From there, the micro-filter feed pump pushes the water to the micro-filters.
“Depending on the amount of usage, the micro-filters can last anywhere from six to 10 years,” said 1st. Lt. Benjamin T. Rapach, engineer detachment commander, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “They filter everything out except the water molecules,” added the 25-year-old native of Marion Center, Pa.
After the water has moved through the series of micro-filters it is circulated through the system with a series of pumps and turbochargers through reverse osmosis filters.
“The water is separated into potable and not potable water,” said Stempien. “It is a lengthy process, but we can filter virtually any type of water to accomplish our mission.”
The 15th MEU is a Marine Air Ground Task Force comprised of approximately 2,300 Marines and sailors who are participating in MEUEX to prepare the unit for its deployment scheduled for this fall.