By Norris Jones
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 26, 2007 - About 450 Iraqis are working to get Fallujah's first sewer system operational by summer. That number is expected to grow soon to a construction force of 700 Iraqis. The $85 million project includes a collection system, trunk mains, pump stations and a wastewater treatment plant processing 10.5 million gallons of water a day.
"People are happy because our community is safer now and there are more American projects creating jobs in different areas," said construction manager Awaf Abdul Rahim at the wastewater treatment plant. "It's helped Fallujah's unemployment. When the security situation improved earlier this year, we were inspired to work hard. Our construction crews became more serious and active and are now getting more done."
Peter Collins, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the project manager overseeing the work. "The long-term benefit is huge. At the moment, Fallujah's raw sewage is flowing into the Euphrates River, polluting it, impacting communities downstream who depend on it as a drinking source," Collins said.
Apart from the Iraqi work force, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has 35 Iraqi engineers visiting the various project sites daily, checking on the quality of the ongoing construction and encouraging worker safety.
Collins said the new treatment plant will have the capacity to serve Fallujah's needs until 2025, even if the community has a 50 percent growth in population from 200,000 to 300,000 residents.
"People in Fallujah may not fully appreciate the impact of this project because they have never lived in a sewage-free city. Next year there will be no wastewater flowing in the streets and their children will be able to play safely outside," Collins said. "It represents a monumental step forward, and that's what motivates us as we work to achieve that goal."
(Norris Jones serves in Iraq with the Gulf Region Central District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.)