NEWS | June 6, 2018

84th Engineer Battalion's Civic Action Team Builds Water Catchment Systems in Palau

By 1st Lt. Kevin Hadden

KAYANGEL and NGARDMAU, Palau -- The Civic Action Team (CAT) in Palau constructed two water catchment systems that will provide clean and filtered water to the local population during the first half of their six month deployment.

A water catchment system is a rain water collection and storage structure. The system collects rainwater that falls on a building's roof and filters it. The filtered rainwater is then used as a source of fresh water. In isolated areas in Palau, such as Kayangel and Ngardmau, this is the only reliable way to get fresh water.

Kayangel is a tropical island state in the Republic of Palau and home to the most recent water catchment improvement project that the CAT completed May 4. Approximately 70 people call the roughly one square-mile island home. Prior to the CAT's enhancements, the Kayangel Elementary School provided the school children and the community with unfiltered captured rain water through three water catchment containers feeding one large system.

The roof and tanks were dirty and untreated, which led to health concerns for those drinking the water. One tank didn't even have a cover and it had become a breeding ground for bugs and bacteria. Simply put, the water was not potable.

The project's main mission was to repair the system and to construct ways to filter captured rain water. 1st Lt. Kevin Hadden, Sgt. 1st Class Wesley Greer, and Spc. Chakeris Carter from Civic Action Team 84-05 worked in conjunction with Dr. Dale Jenkins from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Minister Sinton Soalablai from the Palau Ministry of Education in order to make the necessary fixes.

After planning out the logistics, Greer, Carter, along with two Palauan plumbing apprentices, Ngirchoidesong "Oi-day" Kingzio and Roger Santos, took a three-hour boat ride from the main island of Koror to the remote island in order to set up their operations at Kayangel Elementary School.

The crew made significant progress over the course of three days of hard work. The team looked at improving the system in three ways; they wanted to keep debris out of the system, chlorinate the water inside of the tanks to kill any residual bacteria, and filter the water coming out of the system to ensure that the water was being continuously improved in all stages of production.

To do this, the team cleaned the roof, gutters, and catchment tanks, made repairs to the gutter system, and added a "first-flush" system to each of the catchment tanks so that debris would be diverted away from the water storage. They then created a cover for one of the tanks and the pump, and added two carbon, poly-spun filters that can trap sediment as small as five microns large.

Finally, they taught the school administrators how to clean their water by using safe amounts of chlorine. These three key steps of producing clean, drinkable water can easily be maintained by the administrators at the school for years to come.

Jenkins made the trip out to Kayangel to take a look at the work the team had completed. After reviewing the last few projects that the CAT team has done for USAID, Jenkins said that the success of the systems exceeded his expectations.

The United States' Civic Action Team in Palau aims to continue to build the friendship between our great nations through improving the quality of life of Palauans, supporting the agreements in the compact of free association, and supporting United States Pacific Command's cooperative engagements in the Pacific. By constructing a filtration system for the people of Kayangel, the CAT team has continued a 50 year legacy of friendship.

U.S. Ambassador to Palau, Amy Hyatt, said about the mission, "The U.S. Embassy is very grateful for the dedicated work of our CAT team that has made enormous contributions to the people of Palau."

She went on to say that the filtration system is an important addition to the island because it's providing the only clean water source on Kayangel. The United States Civic Action Team is planning to construct filtration systems for the people of the islands of Peleliu and Angaur next.