Water Flows in Iraq

Water Flows in Iraq

By Danetta Bramhall

In Badaah, Iraq, David Watts adds finishing touches to his work in the Nasiriyah Water Treatment Plant—his home away from home for nearly eight weeks. The largest water treatment facility in Southern Iraq, the Nasiriyah Plant supplies 10,000 cubic meters per hour of fresh drinking water to approximately three million Iraqis in Ad-Dawayah, Badaah, Al-Shatra, Al-Garaaf, Nasiriyah and Sug Ash Shuyuk.

“This new water facility rivals any state-of-the-art water treatment plant we have in the States,” said Watts.

It didn’t start out that way.

Photo Caption: Looking eastward from the Flocculation Clarifier you see the Garaaf River.  

Watts sat in his home office in Krum, Texas when he recently received an email from a friend asking if he would be interested in going to Iraq to program PLCs, or Programmable Logic Controllers. Ordered and shipped to the facility, they had no one in the area who knew how to program PLCs. David Watts owns DWC Technology, and is primarily involved in systems integration and consulting for automation projects.

“I thought about it for awhile,” said Watts. “Then my daughter said, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to go and help build this plant and be a part of history?’” His wife and three children, Heather, Jordan and Drew, all agreed traveling to Iraq and helping build community infrastructure would be a great experience. So he packed his bags.

When Watts arrived in Iraq, he discovered Allen-Bradley PLCs to be very limited in their programming with roughly 10 percent completed. The Modicon Quantum PLC was roughly 80 percent ready. He immediately set to work. “The GUI [Graphical User Interface] was also limited and very static in its appearance and function,” Watts said.

Individual ControlLogix processors were placed at the three pump stations along the Garaaf River, a small branch of the Tigris River. The fourth ControlLogix was placed in the control room to function as a SCADA host for the plant. The Quantum PLC, which has 20 Remote I/O drops, was used to control the backwash of 20 individual filters cells.

“Then came the problem of getting the Quantum PLC to communicate with the ControlLogix,” said Watts.

David Watts has single-handedly programmed all
of the PLCs for the water plant.
“I had never used a ProSoft Technology interface module before. And, of course there were no manuals or cables on location to help me with this, so I called ProSoft Tech Support.”
ProSoft Technical Support Engineer, Scott Lee, answered the call. “

You could tell right away that he had his hands full,” said Lee. “But he obviously knew how to program and only needed a little nudge in the right direction to get the ProSoft Modbus Interface module up and running.”

The Nasiriyah Water Plant is located just north of Nasiriyah City, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This is the area commonly referred to as the “Fertile Cresent", a rich food-growing area.

The Plant takes water from the Garaaf River and delivers the water into 10 large clarifiers to allow the sediments to settle. Alum is then mixed with the water to allow any remaining particles to coagulate prior to sending the water to the flocculators. Next, the partially cleaned water is sent to sand filters where a majority of the bacteria is removed. Finally, chlorine is added to kill any remaining bacteria and the water is sent to 2 underground storage tanks.

Workers were given an award for 4.5 million safe man-hours.

Fluor-AMEC, the project contractor, awarded ANCo and Snaffee, both Iraqi contractors building the plant, a safety award for 4.5 million safe man-hours.

“That award was really something,” said Watts. “When you consider we had as many as 1,000 workers at a time building this plant, the pump stations as well as the pipeline that measures one meter in diameter. The local workers are also a big reason why the building of this plant has been so successful. It has created jobs and has become a source of pride for southern Iraq.”

One of the Iraqis who has been instrumental in the programming and commissioning phase, and will continue to be once the plant is operational, is Nabeel Abbood. Watts describes Abbood as a “very intelligent young man.”

“Nabeel was hired to handle the IT at the plant,” said Watts. “But he has also received a crash course in PLC programming and integration and has been a great help to me. When I leave he will be the person with the most PLC programming experience at the plant.”

The new plant is scheduled to go online in early 2007. It replaces a small water plant that is severely overtaxed.

Photo Caption: Nabeel Abbood received a crash course in PLC programming and integration.

“Since this is a very agricultural area,” said Watts, “except for a small water treatment facility near by, some of the people in the region get water in buckets from the river, so this is going to be a great improvement for them.”

When asked if he had to take any special precautions while on this job, Watts laughed. “Only when going outside the compound.”

A private security detail from the UK and General Saad, the top ranked Iraqi officer in the province, provided troops for the safety of the workers traveling in the region.

“General Saad came to the plant personally,” said Watts. “He was an incredibly nice guy. After he shook my hand he then touched his heart which is a way of showing respect here.”

“If we have to go outside the camp, Kroll, a company from the UK, provides security. For that we had to wear body armor and traveled in bullet-proof Suburbans.”

Watts next stop is home to Krum, Texas, but he says the experience has been such a good one he plans to come back to Iraq to help with the Erbil Water Plant located in northern Iraq. Work is near completion ton a $100 million water project that could bring 6,000 cubic meters of clean drinking water to the people of Erbil every hour starting next year. The project, which will be built in multiple phases, includes a portable water treatment plant, an intermediate booster station, a storage tank and pipeline.

Photo Caption: David Watts dons his body armor in preparation for going to the pump stations outside the water plant compound.