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Drilling activity for Honduras water well underway

TRUJILLO, Honduras (AFNS) -- The 823rd Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron continued drilling activity for a water well July 7 in Honduras. The well is one of multiple projects taking place here as part of New Horizons, an annual humanitarian assistance exercise.

The well, which is approximately 220 feet deep, is expected to produce between 35,000-45,000 gallons of clean drinking water per day once fully operational.

"This well will easily support anywhere from 4,500-6,000 people per day," said Master Sgt. James Gecoma, the 823rd ERHS well drilling operations superintendent.

Gecoma and his team are also working on several other projects to include a two-classroom schoolhouse in Ocotes Alto, an emergency and operating room in a local Trujillo hospital, and they recently completed vector-borne disease surveillance study in Tocoa.

"The water project is very important for my community," said Oscar Alfredo Gomez, the Honduras Aguan patranado. "During the last few years the community has been suffering from a shortage of a supply of water due to erosion and deforestation ... and the growing of the community."

The village residents currently get their drinking water from either a well -- which can produce only a few hundred gallons of drinking water a day -- or a nearby river. These sources, though, are contaminated by runoff and other pollutants, and require purification before drinking. The drinking water from the new well, which reaches down into an untapped aquifer, will produce clean drinking water.

"With a lot of runoff from your houses, showering, washing clothes, all that will go through the leech fields down into the first aquifer," Gecoma said. "So that's why we're drilling to the second aquifer ... the leeching system won't go to that depth, so that's untapped, crystal-clear drinking water."

The well will also supplement the community during the dry season when water is scarce and the wet season when pipes can be damaged.

Well drilling is a 24-hour operation and has required the work of two, 12-hour shifts. The activity takes place in the middle of the community and the residents have become familiar with the day-to-day operations.

"The Hondurans have shown a great interest in what we're doing," Gecoma said. "They always gather around the site outside the fence watching (and) taking pictures … We're able to talk a little bit with them and they're really excited about getting this clean drinking water, which will be provided to every house in the village."

Once the aquifer is reached, the team will remove the steel used to drill the well and then insert a filter pack attached to a steel casing which will go down to the aquifer. Once established, a pump, motor and drop pipe will go inside the casing. Finally, the team will conduct tests to determine the amount of water that can be pumped from the well on an hourly and daily basis. If the residents pump too much or too quickly, it could cause the pump to burn out.

"I'm happy about the new well project," said Miguela Castro, a Honduras Aguan resident and evangelical church pastor. "Because in the summers we have to go to other places to get water and we have to wash our clothes in the river. We just want to say thank you ... and we're thankful you guys came here and gave us this blessing."

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