When Bill Korreck heard that much of Puerto Rico lacked safe drinking water after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September, he knew he had a unique way to help: The Water Wagon. The challenge was figuring out how to get the 5,000-pound trailer thousands of miles across the ocean to the people who needed it the most.
Korreck, the founder of Michigan-based Global Treatment Solutions, designed the fully mobile Water Wagon in the wake of the Flint water crisis. It can treat thousands of gallons of contaminated water a day, making it safe for consumption.
“From the involvement we’ve had in the community here and seeing the devastation in Puerto Rico, it really hit home because of my involvement with the water crisis in Flint. So, we started to see if there’s a need and how we could get to the island. We had interest but no real tangible results until recently,” Korreck said.
For many months, Korreck and environmental attorney Marc Shaye of Franklin, Mich., looked for a cost-effective solution to transport the Water Wagon to Puerto Rico, to no avail. Then, as luck would have it, mutual friend retired Marine officer Robert Middleton put Shaye in touch with Cindy Gianino, a DTE Energy employee who works with the company’s industrial customers.
DTE crews have been helping to restore power to Puerto Rico since January, and shipping the energy company’s trucks and other heavy equipment to the island via a barge was a massive undertaking. Gianino knew her company had the expertise and connections to transport the Water Wagon. Once she explained the situation to her leaders – and the great need on the island for safe drinking water – they not only agreed to help with the logistics, they offered to cover the costs.
“We’re going down there to provide a humanitarian service. Along the way, we have discovered an angel, and that angel is DTE Energy, and they have stepped up to the plate in significant ways. They have been huge in their commitment to this project,” Shaye said.
The Water Wagon left Global Treatment Solutions’ Holly, Mich., office on Tuesday, Feb. 20 for its two-week journey to the island. Once it arrives, Korreck and Shaye will be there to receive it. The plan is for the water treatment trailer to follow DTE crews as they work in remote areas of Puerto Rico. The Water Wagon will provide clean, safe drinking water to the residents until DTE crews get the lights back on. Then, the Wagon will move to the next location.
“Without DTE Energy, this could not have been possible. They have been tremendous in their support. They appreciate the need. They have people there who see it every day and are working hard themselves to restore electricity to the island,” Shaye said. “They assessed the potential of the purification system. Once they made a decision to move forward, it happened.”