Testimonial from a Partner in Maine

I want to thank you for all the assistance RCAP Solutions has provided to drinking water and wastewater operators in the Train-the-trainer-training-to-achievestate of Maine.  Each year our future industry leaders benefit from the wonderful “Asset Management” and “Emergency Preparedness” presentations given by Art Astarita during our Management Candidate School.  His practical approach resonates well with this audience.  Art and Rebecca Reynolds have also been great in their willingness to travel to less populated areas like Calais, Rockland and Presque Isle, Maine.

In early 2015, drinking water and waste water operators in Calais and Fairfield also benefited from the “Math Basics” workshops provided by Mia McDonald.  It is tough to positively engage operators in a math training program. However, the students in Mia’s two classes had many favorable comments such as: “Instructor was great! She explained herself well… Will help obtain my Grade III License… Will use this math to help with future problem solving… Dosing pumps and chlorine demand and the formulas will be helpful”.

It is so important that RCAP Solutions takes such high caliber training to the less populated communities in the far reaches of Maine.  Such training saves the operators in both the cost of travel and also in the cost of time away from their facilities.

As the Training Coordinator for JETCC, I also work closely with the certification officers for Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). I am always confident that the RCAP training we offer will be welcome by those agencies and recommended for the operators.

Thank you for sharing your resources with Maine’s Water Pollution Control Personnel!


Leeann Hanson, Training Coordinator
Joint Environmental Training Coordinating Committee
Scarborough, Maine

RCAP Solutions Staff Receive National Awards


Award recipients Sukhwindar Singh, Josefa Torres-Olivo, and Art Astarita.


Robert Stewart with Sukhwindar Singh.

Robert Stewart, Executive Director for the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) presented three RCAP Solutions Employees with prestigious national awards during the RCAP annual conference last year in Madison, Wisconsin.


Sukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training was inducted into the RCAP National Hall of Fame. Inductees into the Hall of Fame are recognized for having made significant positive contributions to RCAP in the course of their work over the years as a long-term Technical Assistance Provider or Regional coordinator who works directly with communities. Sukh has been with RCAP Solutions for 21 years and brings unique expertise, training and skills useful in a variety of leadership, training and community settings.  She has primary oversight ensuring that all training deliverables/funder requirements are met.


Josefa Torres-Olivo with Robert Stewart.

Josefa Torres-Olivo, District Director for Puerto Rico was the recipient of The Bill French Bridge-builder Award, given to an RCAP staff member who has been successful in building their state RCAP program, whether in reputation and credibility or in funding. She has advanced her state program to a higher level of operations through new and enhanced relationships with funding and primacy agencies or other partners, new services offered to communities, and new grants or contracts obtained. This award is named for Bill French, one of RCAP’s founding members who leveraged the RCAP program to build a strong and well-respected agency, and is given to a recipient who has successfully advanced their state program to a higher level of operations. Josefa was recognized for enabling her program to cross over barriers, leading the program along a road to realize its vision, and bringing the plan to fruition. Josefa has been with RCAP Solutions for 20 years, providing technical assistance on water and wastewater issues; assisting in the planning, developing, and organization of rural communities; providing expertise for the implementation of community source water protection and ground water improvement for rural low-income water systems; and has worked cooperatively with local, state, and federal government agencies to enhance community systems compliance.


Art Astarita with Robert Stewart.

Art Astarita, State Lead for Maine, received The Outstanding Service Award, given to an RCAP staff member who repeatedly goes above and beyond the call of duty in serving his communities, building their capacity and helping them achieve the outcomes that are critical to their future health and development. Art was recognized as a staff member who gives more than 100 percent in the service of his communities and whose commitment and dedication to RCAP’s mission is obvious to all. Art is a geologist and joined RCAP Solutions 17 years ago. He provides technical assistance to small water and wastewater systems throughout Maine and New England.  This includes environmental assessment reports, GPS and GIS mapping, aquifer contaminate analysis, writing funding applications, grant administration, conducting system financial analysis and asset management training.  He has helped to secure funding on numerous water and wastewater infrastructure improvement projects.

Case Study – Nitrate Contamination Causes Identification and Abatement

By James P. Starbard M.S., REHS/RS, Program Resource Specialist, RCAP Solutions5538107e1c883.image

RCAP Solutions was contacted by the Property Manager of a U.S. Housing and Urban Development owned property which houses elderly and disabled individuals. The Property Manager had just received a “Do Not Drink Order” from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health due to high nitrate levels and was seeking RCAP Solutions Assistance.

RCAP Solutions Specialists met with the community’s Property Manager and reviewed the Do Not Drink Order and the requirements set forth in it, one being that a Title 5 Inspection (septic system inspection) be performed. The RCAP Solutions Specialist is a licensed Title 5 Inspector and agreed to do the inspection for the community. The initial septic inspection found no visual signs of failure or malfunction including the septic tanks and the leach field area. During this inspection it was also noted that the community had no room to move infrastructure as they did not own their whole Zone 1, the wastewater components including the leach field are in the Zone 1 and many wetland/surface water features surround the community.

Not seeing any issues visually, the investigation of the septic system continued with the pumping of all septic tanks and inspection of them empty. Again, no cracks or voids were witnessed and a cause of the nitrate spikes remained a mystery. Exploring the possibility that the wellhead may be compromised leading to the nitrate spike a camera inspection was performed and showed so issues.

Focusing back on the septic system, all wastewater pipes were inspected using a camera, again no pipe breaks were witnessed. One wastewater pipe of greatest concern ran within 30 ft. of the wellhead and was pressure tested, holding a constant pressure for fifteen minutes indicating no issues.

Spring came to Massachusetts and the snow melted, revealing a sign of septic failure in one of the leach field trenches. The trench in question was already green and all the land around it was still dormant, showing that the trench had failed.

The community hired an Engineer and working with a septic system contractor and the RCAP Solutions Specialist the leach field was uncovered for inspection. It was discovered that the leach field was not installed according to the engineer plans and did not meet Massachusetts codes past or present. As a result, the septic trench showing failure was receiving 80% of the wastewater flow while the other 9 septic trenches received little to none.

The septic system leach field was repaired to meet the specifications of the original as-build plan and tested to ensure equal flow to each of the septic trenches. The failing septic trench was turned off by installing a valve and was given time for the soil to regenerate as planned.

In the coming months the community saw a dramatic drop in nitrate levels in their drinking water from a high of 23.1 mg/l before the septic repairs to a low of 4.9 mg/l leading to a brief lifting of the “Do Not Drink Order” by the MASS DEP. However, at some points the nitrate levels fluctuate almost seasonably and sometimes exceed the 10 mg/l threshold, leading to the “Do Not Drink Order” being re-implemented. The failing septic trench was turned back after a number of months off and is working as designed showing the soil did indeed regenerate itself.

Currently RCAP Solutions Specialists are working with the community on options for either Nitrogen Reduction Treatment retrofitting of the septic system or filtering treatment in the drinking water system to bring nitrate levels permanently below 10 mg/l, as all infrastructure in place appears to be working as designed and relocation of components is not feasible due to land constraints.

Investigation of a drinking water contamination issue like nitrate without a clear cause and effect involves a lot of monitoring and exploration. At no time was any bacteria contamination found during weekly water quality samples despite the evidence that the septic system did have an effect on Nitrate levels. All of this work was done under the oversight and approval of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the local Board of Health.

Community Resources Program Update, Fall 2015

Scott Mueller, Chief Rural Affairs Officer & Director of Community Resources, RCAP Solutionswater-conserve

Perhaps one of the most important activities and investments a community can make is providing safe, efficient, and sustainable infrastructure for its residents.  In fact for many rural communities a water system or wastewater system can be the single most expensive investment it makes for itself.  Along with these also are affordable housing, electricity, safe transportation routes, and telecommunication opportunities.  In this day and age many communities are looking at all of these as basics for community life and economic betterment.  Without water and wastewater disposal two of the critical elements necessary for a safe and clean community life needed to prosper are missing and due for some challenges.  Can you imagine living in a location where there was no drinking water?

All these activities require proper planning and a critical understanding of the system to insure that they not only operate correctly but also provide the intended opportunity and or sustainment of a healthy environment.  With the availability of water in many of our states coming into question those that do have access to clean water it is becoming more and more, perhaps, one of the most important resources a community has.  And they are looking to protect it along with finding ways to sustain its availability and quality.

RCAP Solutions has been a long standing leader towards this end in providing such counseling and technical assistance to rural communities across our region which covers 9 north eastern states and 2 territories [ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, RI, NY, PA, NJ Puerto Rico and USVI].  Our experienced staff which is located in each state focuses on assisting those small rural communities in need trying to promote their locality and provide a safe environment to live.  Whether it be working with a specific community issue or developing a new infrastructure system they have the experience to assist you with your effort.  Most always these are challenging efforts which cost significant dollars and there is an ever growing maze of regulation and process that needs to be navigated.  We can help.

This year we are pleased to say we have funding available to assist eligible communities.  Whether it be direct technical assistance, or training provided to you or your project team, we would enjoy hearing from you and seeing how we may assist.  In those cases where communities are not eligible for assistance under our federal and state funding guidelines, we also offer an affordable approach to gaining this assistance and are more than happy to discuss your needs.

We wish every community the best in the upcoming year and to find out more about our services please contact Scott Mueller, Director of Community Services and Chief Rural affairs officer at 315-482-2756 or email smueller@rcapsolutions.org.

Regional Ideas for CUPSS’ Repair & Replacement Cost Schedule

Arthur Astarita, Maine State Lead, RCAP Solutions, Inc

RCAP Solutions’ experience has shown that small-sized systems (<3300 connections), have a wide-range of ways to document the need for capital improvements.  Typically, the superintendent has a list showing improvements including costs that is used to plan proposed upgrades.  This “mental list” is generated and updated when events arise but does not contain a comprehensive look at the entire system and its’ financial health.  It is not holistic view which is required to assure the system is operated in a long term and responsible manner.  Conducting a collaborative infrastructure assessment through an asset management planning process produces a thorough document that can be utilized by the utility* and shared with the town or even regional economic development groups.

RCAP Solutions has been conducting asset management processes with five water utilities in Oxford County Maine (Figure 1).  These water utilities are relatively close geographically; the largest towns of Mexico and Rumford are separated by a bridge over the Androscoggin River.  The five towns are part of the nine-town River Valley Region of the Western Maine Economic Development Council (WMEDC-RVR).  The River Valley Region has a population of about 13,250.  “Public” water is delivered to about 12,000 people or 90% of the WMEDC-RVR population.  The drinking water for the residents of the four remaining towns is sourced by private wells.

The hub of this region is Rumford, the largest community and home to the largest employer, Canadian based Catalyst Corporation’s Wood Mill.  At the end of 2014, the mill employed 800 workers; within 5 months they laid off 50 people.  The mill is the critical economic lifeblood of the area.  The Rumford Water District* realizes about 30% of their revenue from the mill whereas the surrounding water utilities have many indirect benefits. A study by the Maine State Office of Policy and Management (OPM) of population trends between 2010 and 2030 predict a population decline of 33% WMEDC-RVR (http://maine.gov/economist/projections/index.shtml). Such estimates should weigh heavily on the regions’ towns and possible coping mechanisms should be activity discussed.

Figure 1:  Oxford County Water Infrastructure Asset Management Project showing the five core towns and the four other towns comprising the River Valley Region of the Western Maine Economic Development Council.

Figure 1: Oxford County Water Infrastructure Asset Management Project showing the five core towns and the four other towns comprising the River Valley Region of the Western Maine Economic Development Council.

RCAP Solutions’ project work for Andover and Canton Water Districts included creating a digital map of each system; the other three systems (Dixfield, Mexico, Rumford) already had digital maps.  The tables from digital map layers provided a raw inventory for critical water equipment such as hydrants, valves, distribution pipe, source, treatment and storage. Individually, each system carried that inventory into a spreadsheet containing questions including name, location, condition, installation date, life expectancy, criticality of failure and replacement cost.  Each utility completed an asset management plan (AMP) using EPA’s CUPSS software.  A quick view of each utility is shown in Table 1.


Table 1: Quick View of Utilities in this study (More details can be seen in the respective utility’s asset management plans-not included.  State of Maine MHI is $48,453

Table 1: Quick View of Utilities in this study (More details can be seen in the respective utility’s asset management plans-not included. State of Maine MHI is $48,453

Historically, most of the water utilities’ asset replacements, specifically valves and pipes, are driven by the State Department of Transportation and/or towns’ public works schedules.  If roads, culverts, sidewalks or bridges are on State or Town schedules for repaving, the water utilities are then consulted.  This silo scheduling creates interruptions with the water sectors’ normal replacement plans; it can also lead to replacing assets that have not reached their full useful life expectancy; payment for such pre-spending is the responsibility utility customers or town residents*.

Using the asset management process, the utilities can generate a repair/replacement (R&R) cost schedule.  Here, items can be grouped by decade or by logical project task(s).  This information is perhaps the most important and critical step in reaching effective utility management.  This report initializes priority and emphasis on improvement types along with the cost of those upgrades or maintenance activities.  The R&R cost schedule is critical, concise and organized. The information can be shared with decision makers overseeing the system, town, region and state. This sharing leads to enhancements to planning infrastructure improvements.  Such cooperation will improve cooperation between utilities, towns and state along with sharpening the budget process for everyone.

As Table 1 shows, the median household income (MHI) of the project towns are below the state MHI, thus they qualify for grant assistance from increasingly competitive (and dwindling) federal and state programs.  Historically, each water utility hires an engineering firm to scope the necessary capital improvements.  Individually, they submit funding applications and separately bid-out construction.  Consequently, they compete and are “ranked” against each other at two very important projects stages: funding and construction.  In this project example, the collective utilities total distribution pipe is 76 miles.  The amount of pipe, which generally relates to the amount of total assets, pales when compared to large and very large water systems.  Accordingly, if these small, geographically close utilities are treated as “one system”, economies of scale are visible.  Hiring one engineering firm for design and one construction company enhanced by bulk purchases of similar pipe, hydrants, valves, etc. could create cost savings on total collaboration-wide project.

To demonstrate an example process of collaboration between these five water systems, RCAP Solutions pooled each system’s asset management information into one CUPSS project.  The combined analysis shows 2200 assets worth $76.8M; 727 assets are at high risk. The CUPSS software produces a capital improvement schedule which can be exported for spreadsheet analysis.  A twenty-year improvement plan in five year increments can be presented.  Figure 2 shows the collective twenty-year CIP for the five utilities. These twenty-year expenses represent only 18% of the total collective replacement value.  The first ten years of capital costs by utility are shown in Figures, 3 and 4.

Figure 2: Oxford County Collaborative CIP Study – 20 Year CIP 2014-2034- 18% of the Total Collaborative Value

Figure 2: Oxford County Collaborative CIP Study – 20 Year CIP 2014-2034- 18% of the Total Collaborative Value


Granted each system has different scales of improvement costs. Some utilities need to review asset attributes in order to “smooth out” the overly large cost requirements in certain 5-year periods. However, costs to the collaborative are transparency and can be preserved by prorating costs along with factoring the capital expense with each utility’s revenue contribution to the collective.

Figure 3: Oxford County Collaborative CIP Study – 1st Five Years 2014-2019- 8% of the Total Collaborative Value

Figure 3: Oxford County Collaborative CIP Study – 1st Five Years 2014-2019- 8% of the Total Collaborative Value

Figure 4: Oxford County Collaborative CIP Study – 2nd Five Years 2020-2024- <1% of Total Collaborative Value

Figure 4: Oxford County Collaborative CIP Study – 2nd Five Years 2020-2024- <1% of Total Collaborative Value

A financial analysis of all five water utilities shows that perhaps jointly, they could accomplish the needed capital improvements.  The revenue expenses are shown in the following graphics and tables indicates that for the two year period of 2012 and 2013 there was a collective $1.7M surplus.


After individually funding the necessary utility reserves: emergency (~25% of operation expenses), debt service along with replacement of short-term assets (asset with <15 year life expectancy), a portion of a utility’s surplus could be collective pooled for capital improvements to create an economy of scale.  Of course, what certain projects are good of collaboration versus unique upgrades specific to an particular utility must be crafted.

This collaboration aids the water utilities’ sustainability and helps the economic development of the River Valley Region.  Improved infrastructure attracts businesses.  Using the existing framework of the WMEDC-RVR can help streamline planning amongst utilities, towns and regional groups. Given the OPM’s declining population projections and one pivotal declining employer in the RVR, it is RCAP’s opinion that the utilities and towns needs to 1) prepare for a lower revenue stream, 2) prudently accomplish as much infrastructure repair/replacement as possible, 3) collaborate in purchases and conducting infrastructure projects and 4) consider consolidating administrative operations.

As governmental subsidies decline, it is increasingly becoming apparent that small rural utilities must develop a holistic business plan which focusses on asset management in order to operate the system in a sustainable manner.  It is the long-term asset reserve that is financially critical and challenging.  However, it seems that individually, no one system can save reserves to significantly “buy down debt” of these expensive capital improvements while keeping customer rates reasonable.  If major employers decline, a ripple effect occurs to the revenue available; expenses increase for the ever declining population base.  Collectively working together could be a solution.

Fly-In Review and Legislative Update

RCAP Solutions staff members were in Washington DC for our annual conference, promoting the work we do in rural communities across the northeast. RCAP Solutions is part of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, a network of six regional organizations that provide technical assistance and training for water and wastewater systems in small rural communities throughout the U.S. Pictured below is Mia McDonald, Drinking Water Specialist and Brian Scales, Chief Development & Govt. Affairs Officer with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

RCAP Solutions staff members were in Washington DC for our annual conference, promoting the work we do in rural communities across the northeast. RCAP Solutions is part of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, a network of six regional organizations that provide technical assistance and training for water and wastewater systems in small rural communities throughout the U.S. Pictured below is Mia McDonald, Drinking Water Specialist and Brian Scales, Chief Development & Govt. Affairs Officer with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Ari Newmann, Director of Policy Development and Applied Research, RCAP

Each year, a contingent of RCAP staff and rural community leaders come to Washington, DC for the RCAP network’s annual Legislative Fly-In. The purpose of the fly-in is to educate members of Congress and the administration about the services that RCAP performs for their rural constituents and remind them of the importance of federal rural development programs. Despite a late-season snowfall that forced the closure of most of the federal government, this March we were able to meet with the offices of more than 100 legislators as well as Congressional committees and federal agencies.

The event helped build support on the Hill for rural development programs and for technical assistance for those programs. In the weeks following the fly-in, RCAP circulated a letter in the Senate supporting funding for technical assistance for rural water and wastewater systems that was signed by a bipartisan group of 12 Senators. A similar letter in the House of Representatives garnered 42 signatures from across the political spectrum. As Congress contemplates funding bills later this year, this strong show of support across party lines will help to ensure that funding for these programs continues.

Throughout the week members of Congress and their staff expressed the desire to hear more about how RCAP and federal community development programs are helping their constituents. In order to maintain support for these programs, it is imperative legislators continue to hear how they benefit the people they represent, and Congressional recesses provide a great opportunity to do so. Every few weeks, Congress is out of session so they can return to their home states and spend time visiting and meeting with constituents. These breaks are a great time to reach out to your Senators and Representative to try to schedule them for a visit to your community. Groundbreakings and ribbon-cutting ceremonies provide great opportunities for photo-ops which members of Congress love, and which give them an opportunity to learn about the great work that is being done throughout rural America as a result of the federal programs that they oversee. Even if you’re not planning a big event, your legislators may be interested to see the improvements your community has made as a result of the availability of water or wastewater service. Showing them the value of these programs to rural America will help keep our communities front of mind when they return to Washington and will generate support for our projects and programs.

Case Study – Glendale Water Association, Glendale, RI

Mia McDonald, Technical Assistance Provider, RCAP Solutions

Jesse Smith Memorial Library, Glendale, RI

Jesse Smith Memorial Library, Glendale, RI

The Glendale Water Association is a small, private water supplier that consists of one well, one pump and thirty residential service connections in a small neighborhood in Glendale, a village of Burrillville, Rhode Island.  The homes and water system were originally constructed in the 1950s by the U.S. Army as housing for the military families.  It is now managed by the Association, whose members are composed of resident volunteers. A recent change in board membership left the remaining and new members to inherit a failing well pump, broken backup generator and a current rate structure that cannot support the needs of the system.  A crash course in sampling protocol got the system the attention of the Rhode Island Department of Public Health, who directed RCAP Solutions to assist the system.

RCAP Solutions Specialists are working to assist the system to achieve compliance and get connected with the resources to successfully manage the system going forward. They have facilitated multiple meetings between the board, primacy and residents to repair the well pump and obtain an evaluation of the current status and future needs of the system. RCAP Specialists will continue to work with the Glendale Water Association in planning for asset management and with a restructure of the rate system.

Due to the ongoing relationship between RCAP Solutions and the Glendale Water Association, RCAP was able to assist when a time-intensive waiver application came due. As volunteer board members have full lives outside of their board responsibilities, it became apparent they did not have the time or resources to complete the required Synthetic Organic Chemicals Waiver Application required by the Rhode Island Department of Public Health. The Association was already actively working with an RCAP Solutions Drinking Water Specialist, who was able to spend the time needed to map land uses and conduct landowner outreach to determine which chemicals are in use in Glendale’s wellhead protection area. RCAP Solutions is continuing to work with the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management to finalize the sampling requirements for the next three years for the system. Once determined, these requirements and their associated costs shall be incorporate into the new rate structure. If the waiver is not completed, water systems are then required to complete the full range of sampling with no waiver, in some cases up to $625 per quarter for small systems.

It is the long term relationship with these rural water systems that allows RCAP Solutions Community Resource team members accomplish long term, sustainable results.

Water Operator Training Update

Students working to read samples with colorimeters while Kathleen McDermott, Technical Sales Consultant with event sponsor, Hanna Instruments looks on, at NH Department of Environmental Services, Franklin Training Facility.

Students working to read samples with colorimeters while Kathleen McDermott, Technical Sales Consultant with event sponsor, Hanna Instruments looks on, at NH Department of Environmental Services, Franklin Training Facility.

RCAP Network Releases High Quality Drinking Water Operator Training Materials that are Well Received by Operators throughout Northeastern United States

Sukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training, RCAP Solutions

Just under seventeen months ago, the RCAP Network was fortunate to be funded through the US EPA to develop materials and train small systems on compliance related topics including content that supported Operator Continuing Education credits.

After a systematic review of the ABC (Association of Boards of Certification) Drinking Water Treatment Need-to-Know criteria, it became evident that RCAP curricula would focus on Distribution System Water Quality Management for small systems as well as basic math and chemistry for water operators.  This goal was set at the National RCAP level for all the regional RCAPs to follow.

We will highlight some of the goals and content of the curricula and explain how it is organized to engage operator attendees.  We will also discuss the extensive Training Contact Hours (TCH) application process and results we have achieved as well as highlighting some upcoming trainings.

The RCAP Distribution Water Quality Management Training Module is designed as a one-day, 8 hour class with small group activities and RCAP videos that emphasize chlorine residual management and distribution system best practices.  The modules that make up the 8 hour course highlight the following: distribution as a barrier to protect public health, regulations and factors  that impact water quality in the distribution system, distribution system components and monitoring practices, how to take a good bacteria sample, chlorine residual management, flushing and pressure management.   Expected learning outcomes for attendees are that they will be able to: 1) Describe the importance of maintaining the distribution system as a barrier to protect public health, 2) Monitor chlorine residual and recognize problems that may lead to low residuals, 3) Manage water age in the distribution system and 4) Recognize issues that may lead to water quality degradation in the distribution system.    The 8 hour course features pre-and post-assessment key concepts which are a hallmark of the RCAP Curriculum Design.  RCAP Solutions has applied for and received course approval for 8.0 TCH credits for water operators in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.  We are securing course approval with the other state primacies in our region as well.  We have successfully completed two trainings for over 25 operators in Massachusetts and New Hampshire with upcoming events scheduled in October in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Concepts covered in the Basics of Operator Math module include setting up word problems, working with fractions, conversion factors for common units in water treatment and distribution, percentages, area and volume, manipulat­ing an equation to solve for the desired parameter, chemical dosing problems, and using the ABC Formula/Conversion Table or state-specific formula sheet. While the module’s target audience is water operators, most concepts are also applicable to wastewater operations.   RCAP Solutions has applied for and received course approval for 4.0 TCH credits for The Basics of Operator Math in both water and wastewater in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and again we are working with a number of other primacies in our network to secure this accreditation.  In the meantime, RCAP Solutions staff has successfully trained over 100 operators on this content in New York and Maine.  RCAP Solutions has upcoming trainings in this topic scheduled in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New Hampshire for October and November.

Chemistry is a very wide ranging subject that can take many years of study.  The Chemistry for Water Operators curriculum covers some very basic concepts in chemistry such as how to use the periodic table, the chemistry of water, and how to calculate dosage.  These are basic skills that can assist students in understanding more advanced classes on water treatment chemistry.   The target audience is small system water operators that have had some basic chemistry instruction in high school or college.

The training module is designed to fit in a half-day session and can be combined with other modules at the discretion of the trainer.   As a result of this training, participants will be able to: use the periodic table, understand the basic chemical properties of water, and be able to calculate concentrations in a solution.  The course will accomplish this through modules that cover basic chemistry principles from the importance of chemistry for operators to the chemistry of water as well as concentrations and various calculations.  RCAP Solutions has received course approval for 3.5 TCH credits in both water and

Wastewater in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.   RCAP Solutions has upcoming trainings on this topic scheduled in New Jersey in October and New Hampshire in November.  We are also submitting this material for course approval in many other states of our region.

A successful training event requires quality material, skilled and versatile trainers, engaged participants, sponsors, suitable training locations, and the cooperation of the dedicated Primacy personnel that we have worked with in many of our states to obtain course approval.

We acknowledge and thank the staff of the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health, Drinking Water Section, the New York State Department of Health, Drinking Water, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Drinking Water and Wastewater Sections, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Water Resources Division, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Water Division, the State of Rhode Island Department of Health, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Safe Drinking Water for all their assistance in this extraordinary year of  training program development and delivery at RCAP Solutions.  We are also most appreciative of Hanna Instruments for their participation and sponsorship of trainings in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Upcoming Continuing Education Trainings for Operators

Please Contact Sukh Singh directly at (412) 554-2572 for registration, information and additional training opportunities.

  • October 7, 2015 – Distribution and Water Quality Management in Millbrook, New York. Registration is closed.
  • October 13, 2015 – Math and Chemistry for Water Operators in Egg Harbor New Jersey. Registration is open.
  • October 14, 2015 – Distribution and Water Quality Management in Egg Harbor New Jersey. Registration is open.
  • October 20, 2015 – Basic Math for Water Operators & Distribution System Water Quality Management in Providence Rhode Island. Registration is about to close.
  • November 9, 2015 – Math and Chemistry for Water Operators in Franklin, New Hampshire. Registration is open.
  • December 2, 2015 – Asset Management for Small Water Systems in Connecticut. Location in Connecticut is TBD.  Contact Sukh or Mia McDonald at mmcdonald@rcapsolutions.org for information.


Free Training for Water Operators

free training

In Need of Training Contact Hours?

RCAP Solutions is hosting 2 FREE training sessions in Providence, Rhode Island:

  • Basic Math for Water Operators
  • Distribution System Water Quality Management

The courses are accredited by the RI Department of HEALTH and will provide water operators with 4 Training Contact Hours per course.

October 20, 2015

8:00 AM – Noon:  Basic Math for Water Operators

1:00 PM – 5:00 PM:  Distribution System Water Quality Management


Auditorium at the RI Department of Health

Office of Drinking Water Quality

3 Capitol Hill, Providence, RI

Register for one or both today!

Mia McDonald, RCAP Solutions, Inc.

Phone: 508-340-0998, Email: mmcdonald@rcapsolutions.org

Due to limited space, pre-registration is required

RCAP Solutions is funded by the U.S. EPA through a grant to the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), a non-profit organization that provides free technical assistance to rural water and wastewater communities. RCAP Solutions is a regional affiliate of RCAP.  For more info, click here.

RCAP Solutions Changes Lives and Perceptions in a Rural Puerto Rican Community

Manzanillo PR

Manzanillo, Puerto Rico

Manzanillo is a small, poor, rural barrio located on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, where the Jacaguas River meets the Caribbean Sea. Manzanillo, like much of Puerto Rico, faces significant challenges with solidwaste management and illegal dumping, but for Manzanillo the problem is magnified because the debris is washed into the river and ocean only to be returned to the beach and into the community during the all too common flood events in the area. That continuous cycle of pollution, combined with the limited budgets and personnel, made the goal of cleanup seem almost out of reach. Recognizing the need for a comprehensive solution, RCAP Solutions partnered with the Solid Waste Authority of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources to form a community coalition with the goal of cleaning up Manzanillo.


An example of the waste dumped along the beach.

The initiative attracted a wide range of participants, including the state and local police, local government officials, students from the University of Puerto Rico in Ponce, high school students, teachers, Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops, church groups, and a number of other people concerned with the condition of the neighborhood and its beaches.

In total, over 400 volunteers took part in the event, which took place in January, 2015 and which resulted in 15 truckloads of trash – approximately 100 cubic yards – hauled away.

“The cleanup was an inspiring event for me,” said RCAP Solutions Sustainable Materials Management Specialist Edwin Vázquez-Asencio, “We proved the importance of providing assistance to the communities that are in need, coordinating with local institutions, government agencies, municipalities, the state, and hundreds of volunteers who lined up when needed. We provided the motivation for members of the community to see a new way of thinking about their future, clean and simple. We have a problem with improper disposal of solid waste, and now we are looking for practical and sustainable ways to deal with it.”


Large numbers of volunteers working along the rocky coast.

Edwin and his RCAP Solutions staff trained volunteers on how to handle waste and hazardous materials. Participants were given gloves, bags, and tracking sheets to map the volume, type, and location of the waste materials. The volunteers were also provided with educational information on recycling, water and wildlife conservation, and illegal dumping and burning.

The residents of the area not only gave their time, but also donated prepared snacks, drinks, and home cooked meals to volunteers throughout the course of the cleanup. Following the event, state police officers dressed in clown costumes, set up bounce houses, and provided face painting and other entertainment for the local children.

Adrian Alicea, a Park Ranger for the Department of Natural Resources, said, “This is exactly what we need, getting people to work together to protect the environment for future generations. This is part of our legacy for them and I’m glad we are a part of it. We patrol the area, try to educate people and prevent illegal dumping, but we need help. We really appreciate RCAP’s initiative to organize and coordinate this event. We need to continue this effort in other places.”

“I have a three year old girl and an eight year old son,” said Manzanillo resident, Jayline Olivencia. “When they see people like RCAP Solutions working with us, they will grow up knowing that if we work together, we can get the help we need to have a better life in our community. My son helped clean the river with his dad. It will help the next generation think differently about the community and the environment.”


Volunteers fill trash bags during the clean up.

Following up on the success of the event, in March, RCAP Solutions offered a workshop focused on the creative re-use of recyclable and found objects, such as repurposing plastic containers were as pots for vegetables and using toilet paper and paper towel rolls as seed pots for plants in community gardens. School children and their parents raised the plants with their parents, and the plants were targeted for use in the restoration of the problem areas.

Additional support was provided by Keila Rivera, an environmental science graduate student from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, who assisted with the workshops and researched information about the garbage burning habits promoted in Manzanillo Community. She said, “With this effort, we can say, today we made the change! RCAP Solutions was a helping hand, uniting people and creating an understanding about the importance of protecting and maintaining a clean environment, which will lead to a better quality of life and a better future.”

RCAP Solutions is continuing to research additional strategies that will add value to the areas that were cleaned and recovered from illegal dumping. These include the creation of a land adoption program, where local businesses and community groups take ownership of the landscaping and continued maintenance of public area.


Volunteers proudly pose on the clean beach, post clean-up.

Cleaning an area like Manzanillo is a just a first step toward solving the significant solid waste issue in Puerto Rico. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the problem has reached crisis levels. The island generates more waste per person than the mainland and anywhere else in the Caribbean.

Although 55% of Puerto Rico’s waste stream is considered recyclable, current recycling rates are between 7-10%, well below the island’s official goal of 35%, and largely limited to urban areas. There are very few drop-off locations, which makes recycling, even for the highly motivated, quite difficult. There is also no “bottle bill” in Puerto Rico. Illegal dumping is common, and littering is endemic.

Most of the landfills on the island are non-compliant. Most rural communities have “transfer sites” which consist of unenclosed dumpsters located on the dirt shoulders of major roads. These sites allow leachates into the aquifers and major rivers that run parallel to the roads and serve as water sources for downstream communities.


Trucks are loaded withn trash, to be hauled away.

Large items, such as tires and refrigerators, act as reservoirs for rainwater and provide a breeding ground for disease vectors like mosquitoes and rats. An outbreak of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever in 1994 and 1995, resulting in 4,660 hospitalizations and 40 deaths, was largely attributed poor waste management practices, insufficient infrastructure, illegal dumping, and polluted cisterns.

More recently, Chikungunya, a mosquito transmitted disease causing fever and intense joint pain, has been spreading throughout the Caribbean. The virus alone is seldom fatal, but the symptoms can be severe and disabling. Chikungunya is common in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia, but recent outbreaks have spread the disease over a wider range. In December 2013, Chikungunya was confirmed on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, and as of October 2014 there have been 18,109 suspected cases of Chikungunya in Puerto Rico, according to the Puerto Rico Department of Health.

Puerto Rico also faces numerous barriers that make it difficult for communities and the government to implement solid waste reduction initiatives. These include a lack of infrastructure, economics, startup costs, cultural issues, and a lack of capacity.


The youngest members of the community learn about water and wildlife conservation.

From an economic perspective, low income rural communities do not have the resources to experiment with solid waste reduction systems, and most citizens see municipal solid waste services as a “free service.” There is little utilization of unit-based pricing to incentivize waste reduction/recycling and the infrastructure is not yet in place to provide for these types of systems.

The only current economic mechanisms in place that could incentivize citizens to recycle are the tipping fees at the landfills. However, the fees across the island are low and do not reflect the true cost of landfill disposal. In Puerto Rico, tipping fees average $30/ton, whereas in the Northeastern part of the United States tipping fees average over $70/ton. Also, many believe that increasing tipping fees and initiating unit-based pricing schemes will result in an increase in illegal dumping.

The only other economic incentives for communities are noncompliance fees. However, most communities, if fined, do not have any means of paying the fines. In lieu of payment, the EPA has instead been requiring communities to develop and implement improvement plans.

These communities have limited technical staff available for waste reduction, as well as for operator training, and there is a significant level of need to increase the technical assistance capacity. There is a significant need to provide training and technical assistance for planning, financing, managing, and conducting the community education necessary to develop and operate a successful waste reduction program.


RCAP Solutions staff members: Juan Campos-Collazo, Edwin Vazquez-Asencio, Josefa Torres-Olivo, and John Linehan.

RCAP Solutions has stepped in to try to address many of these issues with a grant from USDA Rural Development that began in October of 2014. Specifically, the goals are to promote reduction, re-use, and recycling through community recycling programs; plan and implement waste reduction programming; promote the elimination/reduction of illegal dumping sites; and promote collaborative and regionalized approaches that can help address cost barriers and achieve economies of scale in solid waste reduction efforts.

According to Josefa Torres, RCAP Solutions District Director for Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands, “There are many ways to solve the solid waste problem in Puerto Rico with the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. However, I strongly believe the educational component is necessary for the achievement and success of this important initiative.”

While Puerto Rico faces a daunting task in tackling its solid waste issues, the problem must be met at the community level. Manzanillo was an example of what can be done when a community has the leadership and cooperation needed to succeed.

“Manzanillo’ s experience was an example of solidarity and empowerment,” said Dr. Sandra Moyá of the University of Puerto Rico’s Department of Biology, “a reflection on what each one can do for the collective, and a successful learning experience for both the local community and the volunteers involved.”