MINOT, N.D., June 27, 2011 — When floodwaters back up city water and sanitation systems and make the water unsafe to drink, residents can quickly find themselves in short supply of a much-needed resource.
That’s where soldiers like Army Sgt. Burton Atkinson and Army Sgt. 1st Class John Halgren come in. Making dirty water safe to drink is what they and their team do, and they’re putting those skills to use at the local hospital here.
“We’re purifying water for the hospital … in case the water plant has a problem,” said Halgren, a water purification specialist with the North Dakota National Guard’s 136th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
Civilian officials sent out a boil order for residents of the flooded city. “Right now, in the city of Minot, you’re not supposed to drink the tap water” since it has been deemed unsafe, explained Atkinson, a water purification noncommissioned officer with the 132nd Quartermaster Company.
Atkinson said the water purification unit his team set up is helping people to avoid “a bunch of steps” to get clean water.
Like many other soldiers, Atkinson has seen a lot of calls-to-action in the last month in many parts of the state.
“We’ve been in Minot on this [mission] for about a week-and-a-half. We spent a week in Bismarck, and we’ll be here for another week,” he said. “We’ve been running all sorts of missions, staying busy and doing a little bit of everything.”
Atkinson — like many other North Dakota Guard members — is no stranger to the recent flooding in his state.
“I live in an evacuated area down in Velva,” he said. “As of right now, there is no water at my house, but I have everything taken out of it.”
Atkinson said he enjoys helping flood victims as part of his job as a water purification sergeant.
“It’s hard to be away from family and your home,” he said, “especially when you’re in an evacuated area … but I’m glad to be here and helping out Minot because there is really nothing I can do at my house.”
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