High-Tech System Pumps Clean Water To Biloxi Regional

Since Hurricane Katrina hit more than two weeks ago, Biloxi Regional Medical Center has been without clean, safe drinking water.

Lori Derouen with Biloxi Regional said "For a few days, we didn't have water at all. When we finally were able to get water running in the building, it hasn't been potable. We've been having to boil everything to cook the food. We're using bottled water, sanitizer to re wash our hands. We have the foam with alcohol in it for everybody to keep their hands real clean".

Across Highway 90, the Mississippi Sound has plenty of water, but it's filled with debris, salt and contaminants. To clean-up the filthy water, FEMA and MEMA called up the "Army's Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center", also known as TARDEC.

The group set up a state-of-the-art water purification system on the Beach in Biloxi, just west of the Hard Rock Casino, to pump the dirty water out of the Sound and distribute it to the hospital.

Drew Downing is an engineer with TARDEC. He said "We pump it into the system at 300 gallons a minute. The water goes through a strainer where we remove large objects like sticks and what-not".

Special filters also remove dirt and salt. The chlorinated water is then stored in what's called a bladder, until it's needed by the hospital. Engineers say the system comes in handy during humanitarian missions and other disasters.

Downing said "The whole system is self-contained. All we need is diesel fuel to operate. So we can respond in a matter of days. It takes us a couple of hours to set up and generate water".

Crews are in the process of setting up two smaller water treatment systems in the city of Waveland. One location is at the corner of Highway 90 and Waveland Avenue. The other is at Buccaneer State Park. That water will be available free to relief workers and the public.

For now, Biloxi Regional is the first in South Mississippi to try-out the technology. Derouen said "It means so much to us just to have sanitized water coming into the hospital for the safety of our employees and patients we're trying to take care of. It's been a tremendous help to us".

The treatment system in Biloxi will continue to operate until the hospital's water supply is fully restored. The two water purification units in Waveland should be up and running in a few days.