News>Bio keeps mission flowing by ensuring safe water
Tech. Sgt. Marcus Poulos, 36th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight environmental non-commissioned officer in charge, and Tech. Sgt. Richelle Rodriguez, 36th MDOS ambulance services NCOIC, test the pH level of a water sample taken from a potable water transport truck Aug. 22, 2013, on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Eight randomly selected drinking water outlets on base are tested by the bioenvironmental Airmen at least once per month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa B. White/Released)
Tech. Sgt. Richelle Rodriguez, 36th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services non-commissioned officer in charge, adds an activating agent to a water sample to test the pH level Aug. 22, 2013, on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The 36th MDOS Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight Airmen digitally scan water samples at least once per month to measure pH levels, chlorine, fluoridation and to see if there are any harmful bacteria present. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa B. White/Released)
by Staff Sgt. Melissa B. White
36th Wing Public Affairs
8/28/2013 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- With all the water on and around Guam through various sources and the people who depend on it daily to sustain existence and operations, is a base armed with a team of 10 specially trained Airmen to determine its safety for consumption and leisure activities.
The 36th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight Airmen maintain oversight of water quality through all its available avenues on Andersen Air Force Base and regularly test the water to determine if it meets safety standards outlined by the Guam and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies.
"Our main concern is the health and safety of Airmen and everyone who lives and works on Andersen," said Tech. Sgt. Marcus Poulos, 36th MDOS Bioenvironmental Flight environmental NCO in charge. "It's my duty to make sure the water they have access to is safe, and I take pride in that."
Water outlets on base designated for drinking are tested by the Airmen at least once per month. They take samples from eight randomly selected locations, typically in high-traffic areas such as family housing, the fitness center and child development center. The Airmen then digitally scan the samples to measure pH levels, chlorine, fluoridation and to see if there are any bacteria present.
Water bodies used for leisure activities, including the three beaches on base and the swimming pool, are subject to biannual visits from the bioenvironmental Airmen where they complete visual inspection checklists to determine the overall safety of the water and its general surroundings.
"It's a big responsibility to test the safety of something that is so essential to everyone and our operations," said Capt. Greg Lathbury, 36th MDOS Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight operations officer. "It's one of the biggest things people depend on but take for granted until something happens, like the water gets shut off or we get affected by a natural disaster."
All water outlets on base currently meet safety standards, just as they continually have in the past. However, if they suspected a source of providing safe water to be contaminated, bioenvironmental Airmen would devise a plan of action to make potable water available, such as a boil water notice.
"We're more of a preventive medicine," Poulos said. "We test the water and make sure it's safe so no one gets sick; we're just here to help protect the population."
And by protecting the base population, they naturally support several vital missions operating out of Andersen AFB daily to maintain airpower in the Pacific region.
"There are very few missions that can be sustained without water," Lathbury said. "Our Airmen working outside in this environment should always hydrate effectively because we need them to keep the mission going."