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Keeping Water Around the World Safe

19 April 2021

From Petty Officer 2nd Class Brianna Green, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Europe Africa Central

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY NAPLES, Italy – Nearly every living organism needs this element to survive. From washing clothes to washing our bodies, from hydrating ourselves to feeding our plants, water is essential for survival. However, not all water is fit for consumption.

Dr. Thomas Spriggs, environmental drinking water program manager at the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Europe Africa Central (EURAFCENT), teaches students from Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Naples High School about water resources, quality and pollution prevention aboard U.S. Naval Stations around the world April 16. In preparation for Earth Day, Dr. Spriggs gave four presentations to students about the importance of clean consumable water and how the Navy can conduct off-site mitigation projects to positively impact host nation environments.
Dr. Thomas Spriggs, environmental drinking water program manager at the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Europe Africa Central (EURAFCENT), teaches students from Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Naples High School about water resources, quality and pollution prevention aboard U.S. Naval Stations around the world April 16. In preparation for Earth Day, Dr. Spriggs gave four presentations to students about the importance of clean consumable water and how the Navy can conduct off-site mitigation projects to positively impact host nation environments.
Dr. Thomas Spriggs, environmental drinking water program manager at the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Europe Africa Central (EURAFCENT), teaches students from Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Naples High School about water resources, quality and pollution prevention aboard U.S. Naval Stations around the world April 16. In preparation for Earth Day, Dr. Spriggs gave four presentations to students about the importance of clean consumable water and how the Navy can conduct off-site mitigation projects to positively impact host nation environments.
210416-N-HB733-0031
Dr. Thomas Spriggs, environmental drinking water program manager at the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Europe Africa Central (EURAFCENT), teaches students from Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Naples High School about water resources, quality and pollution prevention aboard U.S. Naval Stations around the world April 16. In preparation for Earth Day, Dr. Spriggs gave four presentations to students about the importance of clean consumable water and how the Navy can conduct off-site mitigation projects to positively impact host nation environments.
Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brianna K. Green
VIRIN: 210416-N-HB733-0031
Dr. Thomas Spriggs, the environmental drinking water program manager at Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Europe Africa Central (EURAFCENT) ensures the Naval bases across three continents have consumable water. In preparation for Earth Day, he spent two days speaking with students at the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) NSA Naples High School about water resources, quality and pollution-prevention.

“With regards to providing safe drinking water, we must always hit the mark,” said Spriggs.

In his presentation, Dr. Spriggs covered the most common sources of water like ground water pumped from deep aquifers or surface water pumped from rivers, lakes or reservoirs.

He took the environmental science subject to the next level by providing real world examples from his professional experiences working at Naval Base Guam and former Naval Communications Station Adak, Alaska.

Dr. Spriggs described how the island of Guam has a natural freshwater lens aquifer and receives an average 8 to 9 feet of rain per year. However, the airfield that his environmental compliance team managed required less than 0.5 inch of water on the pavement to safely conduct its operations. To resolve this, surface water drainage was routed to underground injection control (UIC) wells, or dry wells, which in turn, replenished the island’s freshwater lens aquifer.

To prevent contaminated stormwater from entering UIC wells, the environmental team created easy fixes for specific locations. At one UIC location near a refueling point, they put together an emergency spill kit and painted the entrance points yellow. Then, they educated the tenant commands about the wells. In other areas, grass was maintained to encourage sedimentation and contaminant capture before going into the UICs.

In contrast to preventive pollution, sometimes Dr. Spriggs’ used science and technology to clean pollution.

For example, at the former Naval Communications Station in Adak, Alaska, there was petroleum contamination from soil seeping into the nearby surface water used by endangered bird species. In a 4-acre area, the team used magnetometers trying to locate metallic pipes or buried drums, but they couldn’t find anything. The use of portable petroleum soil sensors located where contamination was located, but not the source. They even searched aerial maps when the base was first built during World War II for clues. Still, the source of the contamination remained elusive.

Finally, they contracted a large hydraulic excavator to start excavating. When asked where to excavate, Spriggs used the contaminant map. “I literally pointed to the ground right in front of me,” said Spriggs. “Bam! The oil started seeping from the ground.”

As it turned out, the soil pollution source was from an old wood staved pipe and was why it was not picked up by the metal detectors. Pipes like these were commonly used to transport liquids such as freshwater, stormwater, or even sewage. This pipe was located near where refueling occurred in aircraft during World War II and may have been used for fuels or oils.

By bringing these examples into the classroom, the students could see how their everyday water is impacted the environment they live in.

“It makes a difference because now they see the stuff they are learning, and it’s not just something we want them to know,” said Dr. Todd Quinton, the chemistry and environmental science teacher at NSA Naples High School. “It’s something that actually has a bearing on their lives, and that is the value in itself. It gives them buy in and hopefully they’ll take something back with them.”

NAVFAC's Environmental Program provides high quality, timely, cost effective and efficient environmental support to the Navy, the Marine Corps, and other clients. Environmental management is the means of conserving, protecting and restoring the environment and natural and cultural resources for future generations.

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