Key Iraqi plant, Marine make headway

7 Jul 2003 | Army Spc. Benjamin R. Kibbey

A Marine is using his engineering background to help get production started at a local chemical plant, which produces substances needed throughout Iraq for city services and a variety of industries.

With the persistent efforts of Staff Sgt. Jeffrey E. Norman, West Chicago, Ill., special assistant to the military governor of Karbala for the Ministry of Electricity, the Al Furat State Co. is finally getting the help it needs to resume regular production.

"What we've talked about is going step-by-step," said Norman, who has been working on the project since April 25th.

The company makes several chemicals used in a variety of industries, including electrical generation stations, petroleum refineries, and water and sewage facilities. Especially critical is the production of chlorine and sodium hypochlorite, which are necessary for the purification of drinking water, according to Norman, who is attached to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.

The plant requires general repairs and has a shortage of spare parts and safety equipment - some of which they never had in the first place - according to Norman, and he has completed a series of assessments on the plant, listing all the deficiencies and needs.

"We developed a list of priorities based on what I listed," he said.  "First to seal the leaks, second to provide safety equipment and safety procedures, and third to replace old equipment."

Replacing rubber seals throughout the plant is the first priority because of the potential hazard presented to the local population and environment, Norman said.

"We're working on relining the pipes to prevent a chemical disaster, a toxic chemical release," he said.

According to Norman, the plant requires a large amount of rubber lining repair kits only available outside of the country, which the coalition is acquiring for the plant.

Norman felt confident in the ability of the Iraqis to get the plant going once it is supplied with the needed rubber.

"They're ready to take it in," he said.  "The Iraqi engineers are extremely talented and have the capabilities to do the work."

The Iraqis installing the rubber themselves cut the overall cost by about $650,000, said Norman.

Much work is left, but this key building block vital to Iraq's economy is finally moving into place.