MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
A gated chain-link fence surrounds the perimeter of Cherry Point’s water treatment plant. It protects one of the most precious amenities on the air station – its main source of water, which is used for a countless number of services – everything from drinking water to the water used in dousing fires.
But how often do consumers actually think about the arduous process required to make the water they use safe and clean?
According to Cherry Point’s annual water quality report, approximately 3.2 million gallons of raw water from 26 wells around the air station comes into the water treatment facility each day. The raw water must go through a rigorous process of purification before it can be distributed more than 18,000 personnel on the air station.
After the raw water enters the plant, certified operators begin the process of treating the water. The preliminary steps include aeration and adding an exact amount of chemicals for softening the precipitant matter necessary before water can go through ozone treatment.
“The ozone treatment utilizes an ozone contact chamber, which generates a combination of dry air and ozone gas,” said Rob Godwin, a water treatment plant operator at the plant. “It is the first disinfection process used to eliminate byproducts from chlorine.”
Next, the water is filtered through beds of sand and anthracite to remove any solid particles remaining.
Ronnie Hopkins is one of the water plant’s operators and responsible for refilling the hopper with the sand used in the filtering process.
“We used to have 50-pound bags of sand we would have to empty one at a time,” said Hopkins. “Now we use 3,000-pound bags, which are a lot easier. Each load of sand usually lasts between 900 and 1,000 hours.”
A certified state lab inside the plant performs tests on the water every hour. The plant’s water output must adhere to strict Environmental Protection Agency guidelines mandated by the state of North Carolina, said Susan Leary, a physical science technician who works in the lab.
“Our main purpose is to take samplings of the water and run bacteriological tests on it,” said Leary. “We also test for trihalomethanes and chlorine byproducts.
After the water has been tested and is shown to be safe for distribution, the finished product is distributed through 140 miles of piping to all parts of the air station.
The staff at the water treatment plant aboard Cherry Point provides one of the most important services to personnel here. They work to ensure not only that the water they distribute to the air station is clean, but that Cherry Point Marines and Sailors are able to effectively accomplish the missions set before them.
“Our job here is to sustain the war fighter and to aid in mission capability,” said Johnnie Chadwick, utilities systems operations supervisor at the plant. “It’s very comforting to the troops when they leave home that their families have safe water to drink.”