36th CES gets down and dirty resolving water crises

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Aubree Owens
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

At 1,000 gallons per minute, water flooded the nearby streets of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. On just a regular Thursday, a construction contractor who was finishing electrical work near the base accidentally punctured and cracked one of Andersen AFB’s main water supply lines, splitting the unground water pipe and causing a water supply concern for the installation.

Members from 36th Civil Engineer Squadron started digging to expose the damaged line, in order to see the full scope of the project ahead.
“In this career field, you don’t know what you’ll find and how bad the damage is until you start digging things up,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Harry Thulstrup, section chief of the Water and Fuel Systems Maintenance Section (WFSM) with the 36th CES.

Andersen AFB has seven operational wells that fully sustain the base’s water supply, however, the two largest wells that each produce 500 gallons per minute, were the ones effected by the incident.

“When they hit that line, we didn’t have confidence that the contractor could fix it in a timely manner without impacting the installation by reducing the supply and therefore not meeting the demand of the base,” said Maj. Ian Trott, the operations flight commander with the 36th CES. “So instead, our WFSM team immediately sprang into action and started working the repair.”

The WFSM team is comprised of almost 50 military and civilian personnel who work side-by-side to provide fuel, water and wastewater services for the installation.

“We worked really well together as a team,” said Thulstrup. “It was no singular effort during the repair, and even after the line was fixed there was still a lot of work that needed to be done.”

Amidst leadership preparing for the worst with a potential water shortage crisis, the incident was resolved in a matter of 8 hours due to the WFSM team’s quick thinking and hard-work.

Even when the team is wrapping up a job like this, their work still isn’t done. The WFSM team is tasked with a slew of responsibilities that help maintain the base, to include: the production and distribution of potable water, the collection and disposal of wastewater, any maintenance of interior plumbing systems, maintaining the base swimming pool as well as managing the storage and distribution line of jet fuel for the Air Force’s largest fuel storage here at Andersen AFB.

“Andersen is unique in the fact that we produce all the water that is consumed on base,” said Trott. “Most bases rely on local commercially provided water sources to maintain their operations, but Andersen is fully functional producing our own water supply. This makes it even more important that our WFSM team is fully capable.”

More recently, the team has continued their normal operations on top of expediting the maintenance on Well 9 when a motor failed. The team was able to fix the motor and replace the pump, 400 feet of pipe and cable to get the well running within a matter of 10 days.

“Without the WFSM shop maintaining our wells, the installation wouldn’t have water in any facility or on-base housing and several mission requirements such as aircraft maintenance, corrosion control, fire prevention and so forth would be in jeopardy,” said Trott. “The base wouldn’t be operational without this team.”