Army, engineers, farmers celebrate water hui

| July 27, 2017 | 0 Comments
WAHIAWA, Hawaii Ñ Guests holding a maile lei assist Kahu Kordell Kekua, of Kamehameha Schools Bernice Bishop Memorial Chapel, during the R1 Agriculture Project blessing ceremony at Sugarland Farms, July 21, 2017. Through partnership between U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, Aqua Engineers and various organizations in the community, approximately 5,500 acres of farmland are now receiving R-1 (recycled) water for agricultural use. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)

Guests holding a maile lei assist Kahu Kordell Kekua, of Kamehameha Schools Bernice Bishop Memorial Chapel, during the R-1 Agriculture Project blessing ceremony at Sugarland Farms, July 21, 2017. Through partnership between U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, Aqua Engineers and various organizations in the community, approximately 5,500 acres of farmland are now receiving R-1 (recycled) water for agricultural use. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)

Story and photos by
Kristen Wong
Contributing Writer

WAHIAWA — Distinguished guests from the Army, the state and more gathered at Sugarland Farms for a blessing of the R-1 Agriculture Project, July 21.

WAHIAWA, Hawaii Ñ Col. Stephen E. Dawson, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, picks a tomato from the fields at Sugarland Farms after the R1 Agriculture Project blessing ceremony, July 21, 2017. Through partnership between U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, Aqua Engineers and various organizations in the community, approximately 5,500 acres of farmland are now receiving R-1 (recycled) water for agricultural use. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)

Col. Stephen E. Dawson, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, picks a tomato from the fields at Sugarland Farms after the R-1 Agriculture Project blessing ceremony, July 21, 2017. Through partnership between U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, Aqua Engineers and various organizations in the community, approximately 5,500 acres of farmland are now receiving R-1 (recycled) water for agricultural use.

Attendees celebrated the ongoing partnership between U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii and Aqua Engineers as well as the recent approval for the Kunia Water Association and Waikele Farms (Sugarland) to receive R-1 (recycled) water from the Schofield Barracks Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Approximately 2.3 million gallons of R-1 water will now be used for approximately 5,500 acres of land, according to Elson Gushiken, the vice president of ITC Water Management, Inc.

Micro filtration process
Aqua Engineers, the owner and operator of the plant, treats wastewater using a Membrane Biological Reactor, through a process called micro filtration.
According to Hugh Strom, the senior vice president of business development at Aqua Engineers, this is the largest project in the state.

WAHIAWA, Hawaii Ñ Guests of the R1 Agriculture Project blessing ceremony at Sugarland Farms pose for a picture, July 21, 2017. From left to right: Jan Reyes, operations manager with Aqua Engineers; Kevin Newton, the CFO of Aqua Engineers; Jonathan Jefts, of Sugarland Farms; Stevie Whalen, president of the Kunia Water Association; Curt Wexel, U.S. Army Headquarters Utilities Privatization program manager; Col. Stephen E. Dawson, garrison commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii; and Kahu Kordell Kekoa, of Kamehameha Schools Bernice Bishop Memorial Chapel. Through partnership between U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, Aqua Engineers and various organizations in the community, approximately 5,500 acres of farmland are now receiving R-1 (recycled) water for agricultural use. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)

Guests of the R-1 Agriculture Project blessing ceremony at Sugarland Farms pose for a picture, July 21, 2017. From left to right: Jan Reyes, operations manager with Aqua Engineers; Kevin Newton, the CFO of Aqua Engineers; Jonathan Jefts, of Sugarland Farms; Stevie Whalen, president of the Kunia Water Association; Curt Wexel, U.S. Army Headquarters Utilities Privatization program manager; Col. Stephen E. Dawson, garrison commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii; and Kahu Kordell Kekoa, of Kamehameha Schools Bernice Bishop Memorial Chapel. Through partnership between U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, Aqua Engineers and various organizations in the community, approximately 5,500 acres of farmland are now receiving R-1 (recycled) water for agricultural use.

Curt Wexel, the U.S. Army Headquarters Utilities Privatization Program manager, offers remarks during the R1 Agriculture Project blessing ceremony at Sugarland Farms, July 21, 2017. Through partnership between U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, Aqua Engineers and various organizations in the community, approximately 5,500 acres of farmland are now receiving R-1 (recycled) water for agricultural use. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)

Membranes separate bacteria and viruses from wastewater. Among other steps in this process, the water is aerated in a separate tank and disinfected using ultraviolet light.

Strom described the process as “a non-chemical disinfection to make sure that it’s the safest effluent (R-1 reuse water) that farmers can use here today.”

“Schofield Barracks uses nearly 100,000 gallons of the R-1 water at the WWTP for their process control as the first step in conservation,” he added.

Collaboration celebrated
“The Army is good at a lot of things,” Dawson said. “But we’re not good at cleaning water, we’re not really that good at building homes, running power grids and producing fresh water, we’re really good at winning our nation’s wars, fighting in many of our nation’s wars. So we stick to our core competencies and partnering with the private sector for things that they’re really good at we get to see a lot of innovation a lot of great ideas and things happen that the Army really couldn’t do.”

“Aqua is a fantastic example, fantastic partner and an example of what can be done with leadership and vision and initiative and professionalism,” said Curt Wexel, the U.S. Army Headquarters Utilities Privatization Program manager.

Wexel said the water line that is shared by the Army and local farms is not only a physical connection, but a symbolic connection for the Army’s ties with the community. He added that there are other privatization initiatives underway on the Big Island of Hawaii and Oahu.

“We look forward to many more opportunities for partnership with the community,” he said. “We look forward to intergovernmental cooperation and support agreements to continue to reuse water as the best thing for the Army, for the island, for the environment (and) for the taxpayers.”

Kahu Kordell Kekoa of the Kamehameha Schools Bernice Bishop Memorial Chapel, blessed the farmland as special guests held a large maile lei.

Guests were invited to pick a fresh tomato from Sugarland Farms and tour the Wastewater Treatment Plant at Wheeler Army Airfield after the ceremony.

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