78th CE keeps water clean for drinking and environment

  • Published
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Water is a resource that has many uses whether; it’s in your home or for industrial use, that resource must be protected.

The 78th Civil Engineer Group Environmental Management Flight at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, ensures the water supply is safe to drink and flush.

Kristina Bridger, 78th CEG water subject matter expert, said their mission is to ensure the environment is healthy and safe for everyone at Robins Air Force Base.

“We manage permits from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, and we ensure those permits are kept in compliance,” she said. “We do this, so we have safe drinking water and the water we use is safe when it reaches the Ocmulgee River. That allows people to enjoy fishable and swimmable activities in the Ocmulgee River.”

Bridger said water provided to the base comes from deep wells on Robins.

“There are multiple wells on a loop that pump water to the base,” she said. “These wells continuously alternate to keep water flowing through the water mains to buildings across the base.”

Bridger said Robins is fortunate to have clean groundwater that the base can pull from.

“In comparison to other bases, we actually pull our drinking water from deep wells,” she said. “This is rare compared to other bases. Normally other bases use a type of water they pull from the surface, and then they treat the surface water.”

Bridger said unlike other bases Robins' drinking water is very clean with little to no additional treatment after extraction from the wells.

“We can actually drink straight from our wells here on the base,” she said. “There is a level of treatment where chlorine is added to reduce the bacteria, but for the most part, our level of treatment is very small compared to what other bases must do. So, we have good, clean drinking water and groundwater.”

Where the water is used on base, determines what type of waste treatment is required to return that water to nature.

“After the water has been used by people or processes here on base, it then becomes wastewater, and that wastewater, depending on the type, goes to two different locations,” said Bridger. “If the water is used for processes on base, like aircraft maintenance and commodities maintenance, then it becomes industrial wastewater and goes to the industrial wastewater treatment plant. Regular usage, such as washing your dishes or using the bathroom, that becomes sanitary sewer wastewater and that goes directly to the sanitary sewer plant.”

Marissa Willis, 78th CEG water property program manager, said all the water used on the base must be cleaned before returning to the environment.

“Our permits are the guidelines to the treatment process,” said Willis. “There are testing processes for the drinking water and the wastewater treatment. That testing ensures any contaminates are removed before drinking and are removed from the wastewater before going back into the Ocmulgee River or Horse Creek.”

Willis said the base has two labs that test water samples weekly.

“Both the water testing and wastewater testing labs are certified by the state to conduct the tests,” she said. “The base must be certified by the state to run the testing processes for any drinking water or wastewater analyses. All the results done on base are sent to the state and the state, reviews those documents and makes sure that there are no permit level violations. Also, our operators must be state certified.”

According to Willis, the program is broken down by the various permits.

“The permits we manage are for the wastewater, drinking water, general construction, industrial storm water, and the MS-4 permit, which is the municipal separate storm and sewer system permit,” she said. “The municipal separate storm and sewer system permits relate to the portion of the base that have the chapel, the base exchange and the base housing community.”

Bridger said the wastewater sampling systems have changed over the years.

“In the past, it was a manual system where people would have to go take a measurement,” she said. “That sample would be taken to the lab to determine how much chemical needed to be added, but now the science is changing, and Robins is currently automating some of those chemical additions.

Bridger said the water cycle is also important to the base.

“The discharge point for the water used on base goes directly into the Ocmulgee River,” said Bridger. “So, in order for it to be clean, it has to meet water quality standards set by the Georgia EPD and the Environmental Protection Agency. The water here on base is pulled out of the ground, we use it, we clean it, and then it goes back to the Ocmulgee River. That's our water cycle here at Robins.”

Bridger said she feels good to come to work and be able to have safe drinking water.

“I feel like my job is getting done,” she said. “I like to go rafting on the Ocmulgee River. So when I'm out there with my family and friends, I want to ensure that the river is healthy, so my family and future generations can enjoy it too. It means I have done my job well.”