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Fort Bragg soldiers purify, distribute water in Puerto Rico

Sgt. Crew Gill, a military police officer assigned to the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, and Spc. Joksan Toro, a motor transport operator assigned to Puerto Rico's 755th National Guard Transportation Unit, prepare to unhook pallet nets from around Meals, Ready-To-Eat October 2, 2017, in the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.

DONNA DAVIS/U.S. ARMY

By AMANDA DOLASINSKI | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. (TNS) | Published: October 22, 2017

More than 90,000 gallons of water has been purified and distributed to hurricane survivors in Puerto Rico by the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.

A small team of soldiers from the command arrived on the island days after Hurricane Maria struck, damaging homes and tearing down power lines. About a month after the hurricane hit, 36 percent of the island still doesn’t have access to water, according to the Department of Defense.

“We’re constantly on the clock trying to get this water out,” said 2nd Lt. Matthew Ostergaard of the command’s 127th Quartermaster Company.

The soldiers are working in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is distributing bottles of water on the island.

The soldiers place a reverse osmosis water purification system on the coast to collect water from the ocean. The purified water is collected in a 2,000-gallon tank that soldiers drive to towns for distribution.

“We try to focus on the towns in need,” he said.

The soldiers have been working in coastal towns, but hope to push inward to assist residents in the central part of the island, he said.

Each time the soldiers deliver purified water, there’s a line of people waiting. The soldiers continue to spend long hours to get safe water distributed, he said.

“There’s a sense of relief with people,” Ostergaard said. “Some of these guys haven’t had water for a week. If we’re able to hand out water in any way, shape or form, my soldiers want to do that.”
 

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