Busy BEEs monitor base drinking water for contaminates

Base Info
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea – Staff Sgt. Kyle Hicks, 8th Medical Operation Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering craftsman collects water samples from building 1305, Feb. 20 2013. Hicks will test the water for pH and chlorine levels, traces of Escherichia coli (E-coli) bacteria and other contaminates in the base’s water source. (U.S. Air Force photo Staff Sgt. Tong Duong)
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea – Staff Sgt. Kyle Hicks, 8th Medical Operation Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering craftsman collects water samples from building 1305, Feb. 20 2013. Hicks will test the water for pH and chlorine levels, traces of Escherichia coli (E-coli) bacteria and other contaminates in the base’s water source. (U.S. Air Force photo Staff Sgt. Tong Duong)

Busy BEEs monitor base drinking water for contaminates

by: Staff Sgt. Tong Duong, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs | .
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published: March 09, 2013

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea - -- A human being can survive for weeks on just water alone, but if that source is contaminated, no amount of water will sustain him.

Each month, members of the 8th Medical Operations Squadron Bioenvironmental Engineering (BEE) shop collect water samples from different areas around base, so they can test and ensure the drinking water Wolf Pack members have access to is bacteria free.

"We go around and collect samples at strategic points in the drinking water system from around base," said Staff Sgt. Kyle Hicks, 8th MDOS Bioenvironmental Engineering craftsman. "We then analyze them for pH, chlorine and bacteriological contamination."

Testing of pH and chlorine levels are conducted in the field, while other water samples are collected and incubated overnight, so BEE members can analyze them for bacteriological contamination.

Testing for bacteria is the only reliable way to know if the water is safe. One cannot tell by the look, taste, or smell of the water if disease-causing organisms are in it. So BEEs mix colilert, a growth medium for bacteria, into the water samples and incubate it at a certain temperature to give bacteria the ideal conditions for growth.

"Testing the water is a form of quality assurance for the water plant purifying it, and our job is to ensure water is safe for the base populace," Hicks, who's had five years of BEE experience said. "If there are any contaminants in it, or if the pH and chlorine are too high or low, it can have negative health effects."

Since he has been here, BEE has not found any traces of bacteriological contamination in the water system, nor do their records show any past findings, said Hicks, who has been assigned to Kunsan since May 2012.

If the drinking water is not safe for base members to consume, then it can ultimately affect the readiness of the Wolf Pack and our mission.

"E-coli and other waterborne bacteria can cause cramping, nausea, flu-like symptoms and diarrhea," said 1st Lt. Daniel Baseley, 8th MDOS Bioenvironmental Engineer. "If these bacteria go undetected, it could incapacitate a large portion of the base population." 

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