By Arlo Taylor
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
A repair crew of 16 military and civilian members from the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron were knee deep in mud and muck early last Saturday morning fixing a water main break on Arnold Drive that affected base housing and many of the base’s commercial facilities.
The water outage and resulting boil water order affected residents of base housing and customers of the Base Exchange, Commissary, Base Lake Shoppette, Arnold Drive Elementary, Family/Recreational Camp, 19th Medical Group , Child Development Center (Bldg. 1990) and Youth Center (Bldg. 1992).
“I could not be more impressed with how our team handled the situation,” said. Col. Chip Brown, 19th Airlift Wing commander. “We had a huge muscle movement on the weekend, taking folks away from their families, to come in and resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Thanks to our Bioenvironmental Flight and Civil Engineer Squadron, we were able to minimize impact to the community at large because of timely response, communication and execution. The entire team did a phenomenal job.”
Thanks to the swift response of the CE team, craftsmen fixed the broken pipe, restoring water service by noon Saturday. Though the break spilled approximately 650,000 gallons of water; no base facilities were damaged.
“Waking up to a phone call at 4 a.m. on a Saturday and hearing that you need to be in to work ASAP for an emergency water break is an uneasy feeling,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Miller, 19th CES Water & Fuel Systems Maintenance superintendent. “However, our team responded expeditiously and maintained a positive and professional attitude throughout the 12-hour day.”
Miller said his team continuously trains to dampen the mission impact and inconvenience that situations like this water main break can cause.
“[Training] played a tremendous role in executing this repair safely and correctly,” he said.
“All craftsmen were aware of the impact of this water break, and the importance of restoring the water as quickly as possible.”
The precautionary boil-water order was issued Saturday afternoon as a result of the water outage and continued until Tuesday afternoon. Under Arkansas Department of Health Policy, a precautionary boil order is necessary anytime a significant population is effected by a complete loss of water pressure for longer than two hours to minimize the impact of any bacterial contamination.
Base bioenvironmental experts from the 19th Aerospace Medical Squadron conducted water sampling in affected areas to measure disinfectant chlorine following full resumption of water service on Saturday afternoon. This sampling was performed in accordance with Arkansas Department of Health Policy.
“No health threat or risk has been identified or suspected,” said Maj. Casey Cooper, Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight commander. “The boil-water notice was issued as a precautionary measure. Water on Little Rock Air Force Base meets or exceeds standards established by federal, state and Air Force regulations.”
The reason for a boil order and monitoring of a water system after a loss of water pressure is because water pressure provides water service (pushes the water through the pipes) and prevents the possibility of unhealthy contaminants and microbial organisms from entering the water system, Cooper said.
Base bioenvironmental experts vigorously test the base water supply to ensure the health and safety of Team Little Rock Airmen and their families. Child and youth center facilities are sampled monthly for bacteriological contamination and were also sampled in response to this water main break. Representative samples are also collected monthly from the base water distribution system.
Cooper said customers who notice discoloration in their water should allow their taps to run for at least five minutes to clear facility piping systems. All areas of the Little Rock Air Force Base water system are sampled for bacterial contaminants once per month. Disinfectant chlorine levels in the water system are continuously monitored by Civil Engineering.
Individuals interested in the base’s water quality can access the Annual Consumer Confidence Report at http://www.littlerock.af.mil or by calling Bioenvironmental Engineering directly at 501-987-7398.