NEW YORK — Marines are busily pumping what will end up to be more than a million gallons of water from a 34-building apartment complex after basements and crawlspaces flooded up to six feet high during last week's hurricane.
A detachment of 87 Marines with 8th Engineer Support Battalion drove to the New York area from Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Saturday to assist with cleaning up the destruction left by Hurricane Sandy. Ten of the Marines spent all day Sunday in the Far Rockaway neighborhood, the eastern most part of New York's Queens borough. The remaining Marines prepped water pumps and other equipment for rollout in full force and are expected to join the efforts Monday.
The buildings' floods have left boiler rooms underwater, so the residents in the complex are without power or heat - and temperatures were expected to drop near freezing Sunday night.
The 8th ESB Marines are temporarily based in Brooklyn at the home of 6th Communications Battalion. There are a variety of military occupational specialties that make up the detachment as they had to find the right Marines for the job, their commander, Maj. Craig Clarkson, told Marine Corps Times.
Because they knew the local authorities were in need of water pumps and generators, they were able to identify the Marines they would need to complete that type of mission, he said. That included finding Marines who know how to run water pumps, truck drivers who could haul them as well as engineers, supply specialists and a communications team. Once they knew the makeup they needed, finding the volunteers was not a problem, Clarkson said.
"A lot of people are from this area or know people in the area, and we got a lot more volunteers than you normally do for your typical combat deployment," he said.
Gunnery Sgt. Justin Gober, a combat engineer with the detachment, spent the day Sunday with nine Marines working to clear water from the 34-building low-income apartment complex. They had 11 pumps capable of removing 150 gallons of water per minute running in six buildings throughout the day. The water is being drained into storm sewers.
After running four pumps with the 150-gallon-per-minute capability simultaneously in one building and seeing little progress, they're planning to go bigger Monday, he said.
"We had already pumped 9,000 gallons after an hour and had only lowered the water level by an inch," Gober said of one particularly problematic building, a community center. "We hooked up two more 150s for a total of four 150s — ended up clearing 260,500 gallons — and only lowered the water level six inches."
On Monday, they'll be armed with pumps that can remove 600 gallons of water per minute, he said. That, combined with the remainder of the detachment working on the cleanup, means they could possibly clear all the buildings Monday, Gober added.
Clarkson said he knows there is much to do in other areas of the region, but no additional missions have been clearly identified yet.