News | Sept. 19, 2017

Joint Task Force - Leeward Islands distributes water to the people of Saint Martin

By Sgt. Melissa Martens Marine Corps Forces South

U.S. service members with Joint Task Force - Leeward Islands began water purification projects on Saint Martin, Sept. 14, in response to the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. 

At the request of the French and Dutch governments, the U.S. service members are purifying water using Lightweight Water Purification Systems at two sites on the island in order to provide potable water to communities most in need.  

“We are providing water to the people of Saint Martin who have been affected by the hurricane,” said U.S. Marine Cpl. Brandon Fenley, a water support technician with JTF-LI. “We use a system of pumps, strainers, filters and reverse osmosis elements, which is what actually creates the purified water. Once the water is potable, it is stored in the 3,000 gallon bladders until it is ready for distribution.”

The Marines are running the LWPS 24 hours a day to meet the needs of the people of Saint Martin. 

“We are purifying 75 gallons of water per hour, which is about 1,800 gallons each day,” Fenley said. “So far we have given out roughly 2,500 gallons to the people of Saint Martin.”

The members of the joint task force are working in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is the lead U.S. agency responsible for administering aid to the civilians on Saint Martin. 

“USAID is the government’s lead federal agency whose mandate is to save lives, alleviate human suffering and reduce the social and economic impact of this disaster resulting from Hurricane Irma,” said Anne Galegor, a representative from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. 

The OFDA can deploy a Disaster Assistance Response Team in the case of a large-scale disaster to coordinate and manage the U.S. government’s response, while working closely with local officials. 

“The USAID DART is charged with assessing the needs of the affected population and offering U.S. government support to the host nation,” Galegor said. “In this case we are working with the local officials, the Dutch and the French governments.” 

For the service members in Saint Martin with JTF-LI, the coordination done by USAID has helped them focus on making an impact in these communities that need their assistance.  

“Hurricane Irma has severely affected the water availability for the people on this island,” Fenley said. “It feels good to be here doing my job knowing that I am helping these people with what they need and making a real difference in their lives.”