Army provides drinking water to Haiti quake victims

Master Corporal Jean-Nicolas Minville, Army News, Montreal Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Jacmel, Haiti — Engineers from the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) provided drinking water February 8 for distribution to the local population.

The DART can be deployed on short notice throughout the world in response to situations such as natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies.

The water supply section of the engineering troop can provide up to 50,000 litres of drinking water per day with its reverse-osmosis water purification unit (ROWPU). This enhanced water purification system can purify any water source in the world.

 “We pump water directly from the river into a high-pressure machine that filters it and it comes out as pure as possible,” said Sergeant Anthony Weeks from 4 Engineer Support Regiment (4 ESR) at CFB Gagetown.

Filthy water

In the earthquake's aftermath, all sorts of garbage floats in streams and litters the streets. Water bodies are often infested with many different kinds of bacteria and contain a significant amount of fecal coliforms. Under such conditions, it is extremely difficult to find good drinking water.

Fortunately, DART engineers are water purification specialists. After a water purification unit is activated, a preventative medicine technician checks the water quality and must give the green light before it can be distributed. Thereafter, only periodic checks are required to ensure water quality is maintained.

It is also a challenge to find water in Haiti that can be treated.

 “Before, the water we were pumping from the pier by the ocean was too polluted and dirty,” said Sgt Weeks, “Here, the water is a bit cleaner and the machine doesn’t have to work as hard, so we can produce four times as much.”

Canadian troops do not directly distribute purified water to the people, because their mandate is only to produce drinking water. Instead, distribution falls to non-governmental organizations and the United Nations. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is one of the organizations tasked with distributing water that meets Canadian standards.

Project Number: 10-0054

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