Monday, August 11, 2008

TOP STORY >> ‘H2 uh-oh’: Water in short supply for couple of hours

By Master Sgt. Bob Oldham

Base members woke up the morning of July 31 to low water pressure, and shortly thereafter, a precautionary boil order was issued, because the primary and backup pumps which push water to the base’s water tower malfunctioned.
“The pumps went offline,” said Maj. Andre Moore, 314th Civil Engineering Squadron Operations Flight commander.
Squadron officials believe a spike in electrical power caused the main pump to fail. The secondary pump failed to start after the primary pump stopped.
“We received a low-pressure alarm at about 4 a.m.,” the major said. A check of the depth of water in the base’s water tower showed one foot of water left. Normally, it’s between 19 to 23 feet. At 24 feet, it’s full. Around 8 a.m., he said, normal water pressure was restored, and the base’s tank was being refilled.
Base bioenvironmental officials conducted more than 20 tests over three days, seven of which were sent to the Arkansas Department of Health for monitoring.
“The bacteriological samples came back negative for any bacteria contaminant in the water,” said Senior Airman Tammy Blair, a 314th Medical Group bioenvironmental engineering journeyman.
The other tests – chlorine and pH – all were within acceptable levels, she said. Chlorine tests showed results in the .2 to .4 parts-per-million range. Acceptable chlorine levels are .2 to 1.5 per million. The pH tests showed levels in the 7.2 to 7.3 range. Drinking water should be between 6.5 to 8.5, according to Airman Blair.
The pH scale measures how acidic or basic a substance is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic. A pH greater than 7 is basic.
The bioenvironmental team tested the water at various “lock-box” locations around the base. They have pre-determined locations that are locked and tap into main water lines, allowing them to test water leading to all parts of the base.
Consuming 1.2 million gallons of water a day, the base was also potentially at risk if a major fire broke out on station.
“Normally, low pressure will affect fire fighting,” base Fire Chief Don Smart, said. He was off station last week and is reviewing the data gathered to determine if such a situation existed as well as ways his department can be prepared in the future.
The fire department does have access to several other water sources, if needed, the fire chief said. The fire department can draw water from any standing body, such as the base lakes, base pool and other off-base sources. Their preferred source, however, is to hook up to a fire hydrant.
The base’s water consumption is at its peak during the summer months, according to Major Moore. “Our water bill is about $90,000 a month in the summer and about half that in the winter,” he said.
From the time the civil engineers arrived on scene, it took about three hours to reset the pumps, re-prime other pumps that push water from the base’s storage tank to base housing and work centers, and refill the storage tank to an acceptable level to maintain water pressure for the 56 miles of water lines under the base.


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