I’m relatively new here to Twentynine Palms. Being that I’m from the beaches of southwest Florida, people can understand why I was a bit shocked at the difference in terrain. I’m a 24-year-old woman who had until recently never seen a mountain or snow, much less a desert.

Leaving the Palms Springs Airport, I saw a few palm trees. Ok, that’s familiar. I saw plenty of sand. Kind of like the beach, but no water to be seen for miles.

As we pulled on to base, the corporal who had picked me up from the airport said, “And that’s our lake over there, Lake Bandini.”

My eyes widened.

“A lake? In the middle of the desert?!”

She snickered at her clever joke. The one I’m sure gets played on many Combat Center new comers.

“Well, it’s not really a lake,” she said. “It’s more of an open sewage plant. A poo pond.”

“Oh,” I replied, feeling somewhat deflated.

Then it hit me like a punch in the face.

“Holy crap!” I said (no pun intended), a look of disgust washed over my face.

For the first time in a long time, I wished my nose wasn’t so big. It was being far too effective in picking up Bandini’s scent.

I watched the reflection of the sun on the “lake” with my face tucked in to my shirt. My corporal explained how much worse the smell is in the summer time and I thought, despite its comical and unflattering introduction, it was kind of, well I guess, pretty.

It’s a crappy (pun definitely intended) substitute to my tropical beach sunsets. I won’t be gearing up in my bikini and Ray Bans to lay out on its shore, but at least it’s something.

“What is Lake Bandini,” I asked myself. “And why on Earth is it here?”

“It’s the base’s Waste Water Treatment Plant,” said Chris Elliott, installation water resources manager. “The name Lake Bandini was coined after a local fertilizer company. You know, because of the smell.”

The plant was constructed on top of a centuries-old clay lake bottom.

“The Waste Water Treatment Plant allows us to preserve our potable water sources,” said Elliot. “We get potable water from a deep well. That water is practically able to be consumed right out of the ground, but it doesn’t last forever nor is it always replenished with rain as often as we would like. Once that water level get’s low enough, we have to treat the water far more. So the idea is, we want to use our potable water for consumption and non-potable water and recycled water for everything else.”

My sensitive nose might not like it, but all in all Lake Bandini is doing a great deal of good for the Combat Center and the environment.

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