Waterline break tests team response, cohesion

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Randahl J. Jenson
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

A waterline break recently tested Team Ellsworth’s ability to work together to restore water on base while repairing damaged lines.

On Monday, October 23, the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron shut off supply to the base water tower for routine maintenance when the pressure reducing valve malfunctioned and 100 pounds per square inch (psi) of water flooded the aging water system on Ellsworth AFB, which is accustomed to 65 psi. Consequently, pipes broke at Eaker and Schriever Street, as well as inside the Pride Hangar a day later, filling most of the three and a half acre area with nearly three inches of water.

“We went into shift work immediately,” said Master Sgt. Chad Gerrits, the water and fuels maintenance section chief assigned to the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron. “We worked Monday through Thursday night, running a 24-hour shift.”

To isolate and locate the leak, the 28th CES had to temporarily shut off water supply to the base. Within three hours, water was restored and their work began.

Heavy equipment operators dug out pipes that needed fixing while water and fuels Airmen made the necessary repairs and bioenvironmental engineers took samples to test water quality. While these Airmen were still handling the broken pipe at the intersection, the water line suddenly broke in the Pride Hangar, filling the facility with more than 600 gallons of water.     

“At that time, we recalled the CE Squadron,” said Mark Boser, the heavy repair flight chief assigned to the 28th CES. “By the time we got out there, we had people from almost every organization on base willing to assist. This was instrumental in getting everything taken care of.”

Efforts included the 28th Logistic Readiness Squadron providing vehicles, Command Post sending base-wide notifications, as well as First Sergeants and Chaplains handing out snacks to Airmen who volunteered to push water out of the Pride Hangar. 
“Anytime we run into some adversity like this, it just seems like people come out of the woodwork to help,” said Master Sgt. Timothy Parks, the operations engineering superintendent assigned to the 28th CES. “It was like every organization on base had a piece in helping us with this issue.”

Amidst the water shortage, Airmen from the 28th Force Support Squadron were still able to provide three meals a day at the Raider Café and deliver 250 cases of water to more than 700 Airmen living in the dorms.

The boil water notice, an alert by the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight that informs persons to only consume boiled or bottled water, only lasted two days before the shop declared that water on base was potable again.

“The Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight is responsible for monitoring the water quality to confirm water is safe to drink on Ellsworth AFB,” said Maj. Lisa Roach, commander of the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight assigned to the 28th Medical Operations Squadron. “In addition to monthly sampling, BE also samples water during contingencies such as water main breaks.”

With the construction at Eaker and Schriever nearly complete, the 28th CES will continue to work with BE when replacing the water pipes in the Pride Hangar. According to the 28th FSS, the Pride Hangar will resume standard operating hours Nov. 6.

For more information about the water quality on base, visit http://www.ellsworth.af.mil/About-Us/Environmental/, or contact the BE office at (605) 385-3172.