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Army-led project brings clean water to villages in Marine-run zone

3 Jun 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

The 4,500 residents of Teabon and Qutnyah villages have never had their own potable water source.

Soldiers with Army's 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, working in support of 1st Marine Division, stepped in a few months ago to fix that problem.

During Saddam Hussein's reign, Teabon's Mahal Tribe and Qutnyah's Assaf Tribe were neglected and denied clean water.

"The previous regime didn't see fit to give these people water," said Army Lt. Col. Thomas S. Hollis, the battalion's commander. "The sheiks asked for assistance but to no avail."

The sheik of Teabon, Gen. Hardin, had been an outspoken critic of Hussein and his regime.

Once the Coalition ousted Hussein's notorious Ba'ath Party, the leaders of the two villages sought help.

"We began this series of water projects about five months ago," Hollis explained. "We knew we needed to get it done."

Up until now, the villagers have been hauling buckets of cooking, bathing and drinking water from the Euphrates River and irrigation canals.

Both sources are highly polluted, causing many birth defects amongst the younger villagers.

"Not having fresh water makes the people very susceptible to disease," Hollis explained.

Bidding for the projects ended early this year and construction on new water purification and distribution sites began almost immediately.

"Of the seven million dollars we have to spend on civil military operations in our area of operations, $165,000 dollars went to Teabon and $145,000 went to Qutnyah," said Army Capt. Jeffrey E. Flach, the battalion's civil affairs officer.

The two companies in charge of the projects were awarded the contracts based on their reputations and their "price tags."

"A lot of the companies bidding were asking for two or three hundred thousand dollars," Flach added. "These two companies came in with very reasonable offers."

Since construction started, nearly 5 kilometers of pipe was installed in Teabon and 7 kilometers in Qutnyah.

Both water facilities - built from the ground up - are state-of-the-art and are similar to those found in the United States.

Flach visited both of the sites to check up on the progress.

"There's not too much room for improvement at either site," he said. "Now the focus is getting the water distributed to the homes."

According to Hollis, that will take time.

"This project is not something that will serve just for now," he said.  "It'll serve in the future as well. As the area expands and more families migrate here and more buildings pop up, fresh water will be available."