CAMP MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq -- Cpl. Aaron J. Weakley's job sucks - 17,000 gallons of water everyday.
The 25-year-old from San Diego turns some of the nastiest, foulest sources of water into pure, crystal-clear hydration for Marines at 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. In fact, here, the water source the Combat Service Support Battalion 1 Marine draws from is one of the worst imaginable - a large stream of runoff sewage water.
The water is what is left over from the local farm which means you'll find everything from human feces to micro bacteria in swimming in there. It's not as bad as it sounds, though.
Once Weakley and his fellow water purification specialists get done with it, it's cleaner than bottled water.
"This water is used for everything from cleaning animals to cleaning people before it gets to us," Weakley said. "Twenty minutes after we get it out of the river, the water is ready to drink."
The Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit, known as a ROWPU, makes this process possible. The 8,000-pound machines here put out 17,000 gallons of water a day, used for everything from cooking to shower water. The contaminated water is run through three filters that separate solid matter, microorganisms and finally bacteria.
After the water is put through the machines, Weakley and other specialists test it for quality. What they find is actually quite surprising.
"We judge the quality of water by solid matter," said Cpl. Joshua C Collins, a 22-year-old Largo, Fla. Marine who's also serving with CSSB-1. "The bottled water the Marines receive has about 250 parts solid matter to a million parts water. That's acceptable, but not as good as it could be. The water we produce has four or five parts solid matter to every million parts water. It's healthier to drink our the water we clean than the bottled water."
Another problem with the bottled water is the chlorine content, Collins explained. He said boxes of bottled water sit out in the sun for long periods of time, which evaporates the chlorine. Without chlorine the water can go bad. Water produced from the ROWPU is consumed almost immediately, ensuring a healthier warrior.
The water is tested once a week by the hospital corpsmen to ensure the ROWPU is doing its job.
All the infantrymen the purification specialists support are grateful for the job they're doing.
For many of the Marines it never occurs that the foul-smelling sludge they see every day is the same water they bathe and brush their teeth with but it's true.
"When we were in Iraq last year we had a major problem with water getting to us. It's great to have fresh water so close to us all the time," said Cpl. Cenk D. Moses, a 23-year-old rifleman from Lake Charles, La. "It's just one less thing to have to worry about. We all offer up our thanks for the water we desperately need."