Arlington, Va.— A high-volume water purification system developed by the Office of Naval Research has proven itself in a real-world emergency situation, providing a remote U.S. Coast Guard station with enough potable water to last through an Alaska winter. The Expeditionary Unit Water Purification Unit (EUWP) was designed to be energy-efficient and transportable—just what was needed for this type of situation.
In October 2004, a series of storm surges dumped seawater into the lakes that supply water to the 23 Coast Guard personnel who maintain the LORAN (Long Range Aids to Navigation) transmitter at Port Clarence, Alaska. This tiny outpost, the world´s northernmost U.S. Coast Guard station, sits on the tip of Point Spencer, a 12-mile long gravel spit on the western coast of the Seward Peninsula, just 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle.
After the storms, the water in the two lakes was too salty to be purified using the station´s own water treatment system, and the frigid October weather made it impractical to ship fresh water to the station. Fortunately, the reserve tanks had already been filled with enough purified water to last the winter, but the problem remained: where would Port Clarence find fresh water when the reserves ran out? Given the remote location and the limited shipping season (essentially, just the summer months), it was impractical to ship in a large water supply. Lt. Cesar Acosta of the Coast Guard´s Civil Engineering Unit in Juneau, Alaska, sent out a request for potential solutions, and the EUWP fit the bill.
A first-generation technology demonstrator EUWP system had been unveiled at an April 2, 2005, ceremony at the Tularosa Basin National Desalination Research Facility in southern New Mexico. At the first available opportunity, the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center at Port Hueneme, California, arranged to ship an advanced spin-off demonstrator model to Alaska. After a three-week trip by truck, ship, and plane, the EUWP arrived at Port Clarence on July 19. In just three days, it generated 250,000 gallons of purified water.
The EUWP consists of ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis units that can produce up to 100,000 gallons of drinking-quality water per day. The two units, powered by a 60 kW generator, each weigh approximately 15,000 pounds and are mounted on skids measuring 20 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet high. With a focus on expeditionary needs, the units were designed to operate in most environments, including blowing sand, dust, rain, and air temperatures from 32° F to 120° F (0°–50° C).
Program manager Major Alan Stocks, USMC, of ONR´s Expeditionary Warfare Operations Technology Division emphasized the collaborative nature of the EUWP development effort, which included participation from the Navy, Army, Bureau of Reclamation, Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA, as well as universities and U.S. and European commercial firms.
The EUWP system combines for the first time several technological advances, including new reverse osmosis membrane materials, energy recovery technology, and an assortment of other components specifically designed to increase efficiency of operation. It is intended to showcase technological innovations that can be used to provide clean, affordable drinking water to military units in the field, civilians in disaster recovery areas, and other groups of people who are faced with water shortages or contaminated water supplies.
Major Alan Stocks, USMC, is available for interviews. To schedule an interview, please contact Nancy McGuire at 703-588-1279 or Nancy_McGuire@onr.navy.mil.
Images are available at http://www.onr.navy.mil/media/gallery_display.asp.
For more information pertaining to the EUWP program, visit: http://www.onr.navy.mil/sci_tech/special/353_exped/logeuwp.asp.