Today is Giving Tuesday

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Support RCAP Solutions’ SafeStep Shelter Program!

donation amts to ss familiesDomestic abuse victims and their families often escape their abusers with nothing but the clothes on their back to call their own.

RCAP Solutions’ SafeStep Emergency Assistance Shelter provides shelter, housing and stabilization services for these fragile and homeless families at their most desperate time of need.

Your donation will mean more families will be provided with food, toiletries, and furnished homes when they enter the SafeStep program.

Today, we kick off our year-end campaign.

Please click here to make a donation and help us reach our goal of raising $10,000 this holiday season to help Worcester County families in need.

To learn more about SafeStep, please click here.

 

New Report: State Program Keeps Worcester County Families Housed, Saves Commonwealth Millions Every Year

RCAP Solutions praises the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program

Nov. 22, 2016 (Worcester) – This past year, the state’s largest family homelessness prevention program kept 300 families out of emergency shelter, and in doing so saved Massachusetts $10.3 million.

A report released this week, called “RAFT 2015-2016: Residential Assistance for Families in Transition in Worcester County,” takes a look at RAFT and how it helped families in Worcester County in fiscal 2015 and 2016. The report – from the Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts and RCAP Solutions – shows the value of the program, not only in how many families are diverted from emergency shelter every year but also in the economic savings for the commonwealth.

The Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program helps families with very low and extremely low incomes who are on the verge of becoming homeless. The majority of these clients are women in their 30s with two children, the report shows.

“My life was collapsing slowly, I had no hope,” said Tracy, an RCAP Solutions RAFT client. “I couldn’t imagine doing it on my own. [Now] my children and I are in a happy place.  We are thankful for RCAP Solutions – they have helped my family and me tremendously. With everything, they gave me hope; they gave me the strength to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to the RAFT program my family is complete and we were given a second chance of being happy, reunited. We are complete.”

RAFT clients – who apply for help at RCAP Solutions or one of 10 other housing agencies statewide – can receive up to $4,000 annually to help stave off homelessness. Although they can use the aid from year to year, most do not: less than one percent of RAFT users (only two out of 300 clients), in 2016 had received aid the year prior, demonstrating how effective RAFT is at keeping people housed.

After deemed eligible, families use the flexible RAFT benefits to stay stably housed, by helping to pay for housing needs such as back rent, utility bills, child care, start-up rental expenses, moving costs and more.

“RAFT is vitally important in helping families in danger of losing their homes,” stated Karen A. Koller, President & CEO of RCAP Solutions. “This report shows that it is dramatically less expensive to help families maintain their housing and to avoid the emergency shelter system once a family becomes homeless.  RAFT is critical in helping families remain in safe, affordable housing and as a result, experiencing fewer traumas and retaining their dignity.”

If RAFT were not available, the state could expect to pay $36,855 a year to keep a family sheltered for an average stay of 10 and a half months; in 2016 in the RCAP Solutions service area, it would’ve cost the commonwealth $11,056,500. RAFT aid payments only cost $800,707 by comparison.

For more information, contact Maegen McCaffrey, Chief Communications Officer at 617.974.2579 or mmccaffrey@rcapsolutions.org.

To vew the full Worcester county report click here: RCAP Solutions RAFT Report

To view the statewide report click here: RAFT in Mass 2016

About RCAP Solutions, Inc.

RCAP Solutions has been helping people throughout central Massachusetts with a wide range of housing and supportive services since 1969. Our mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families and the communities in which they live. RCAP Solutions is the Worcester County affiliate of The Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts and the Northeast affiliate to the national RCAP (Rural Community Assistance Partnership) Network. For more information, please visit www.rcapsolutions.org.

About The Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts

The Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts has worked on a regional level to address the needs of constituents for 38 years. Network members – Berkshire Housing Development Corporation, Community Teamwork Inc., Franklin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, HAPHousing, Housing Assistance Corporation, Housing Solutions for Southeastern Massachusetts, Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership Inc., RCAP Solutions Inc. and South Middlesex Opportunity Council Inc. – cover the commonwealth and are available to all 351 cities and towns for assistance with housing development, management and policy setting. All of this is in addition to the network’s core work of implementing and managing innovative and traditional housing programs designed to assist people of all income levels. Learn more at www.regionalhousing.net.

To learn more about the statewide RAFT program contact the RHN at pbyrnes@regionalhousing.net.

Brave Pennsylvania Water and Sewer Case Study

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Brave Compressor Station circa 1940s

Sukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training

The village of Brave is a tiny hamlet on the banks of Dunkard Creek in southwestern Pennsylvania.

About 100 years ago, Peoples Natural Gas Company of Pittsburgh decided this community was suitable for the largest gas compressor station in the world.  The compressor remained in operation from 1906 to 1959.  Two dams were created by People’s Natural Gas and other amenities were added including public water, public sewer, telephone service, an elementary school and an ice plant.   Today Brave is considered a census-designated place in Wayne Township, Greene County Pennsylvania.  It lies in Pennsylvania’s southwestern corner near the West Virginia Border. As of 2010, the population was 201 with about 80 household connections.

The Brave Wastewater Treatment Plant provides service to the village of Brave in Wayne Township, Pennsylvania  with a service area of approximately two miles. The biggest concern of the Authority is the condition of the treatment plant and collection system.

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Brave Brass Fittings Plant without Compressor Station, 2015

The Brave Water Authority serves approximately 200 persons and purchases water from the Morgantown Utility Board, which draws raw water from the Monongahela River and Cobun Creek Reservoir. The Morgantown Utility Board is responsible for providing the primary water treatment of water and monitoring of water quality.

This community has faced some serious challenges which prompted them to ask for RCAP’s assistance.  Greene County has been working steadily to keep the system moving forward and many personnel from the county level have expended time and efforts here.  The county also requested RCAP technical assistance.  RCAP is just beginning work here, so technical assistance tasks and roles are being identified.  Currently RCAP staff are assisting the utility with preserving their maps and generating data sets of their water and sewer system that allow the manager/operator to develop an overall asset inventory of his system.  RCAP staff will also be assisting the system to remain financially viable through ongoing assistance related to budgeting and financial management.  Most recently, RCAP staff have also assisted the system to identify a state-certified auditor to assist on financial audits.  The system has slowly made improvements to the wastewater system and they are looking at improvements to the water system including tank painting and meter replacement.  Outcomes of this RCAP technical assistance to this small system are improved public health, improved economic vitality, and empowerment to the system manager, board and community.

Community Resources Program Update, Fall 2016

Scott Mueller, Chief Rural Affairs Officer & Director of Community Resources

Untitled3Over this past year, the focus on drinking water and health has been more important than ever before.  Close attention needs to be made on quantity, quality, and maintenance of water and the system is critical to a communities overall health and ability to serve its residents and businesses.   The lead issue in Flint Michigan has also brought national awareness to this issue with many states now testing their school systems for lead.  As well regulatory agencies are now more critically looking at compliance and trying to work more closely with communities to insure such.

One key activity to look at is knowing where your system components are such as valves, pumps, distribution and collection lines, laterals and the list goes on.  By knowing where they are assessments can be made on their condition, lifespan, and the ability to plan for replacement or upgrade and prior to it being needed to be made so it is a proactive activity rather than a reactive one focusing on having the financial means available to make the replacement.  Geographical Information Systems [GIS] combined with Asset Management planning is now becoming a very good way to guide this process.  Here institutional knowledge of the system characteristics and physical components can be maintained providing information to operators and decision makers insuring proper operation of the system in a holistic manner.

RCAP Solutions now has programming in this area and can provide 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].  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.  By knowing your system and components, you will be better able to manage its operations.

This year we are pleased to say that again we have funding available to assist in this area along with many others if eligible.  We can assist your community effort through our trainings, and onsite technical assistance or through our remote resource team.  Whether it be direct technical assistance or training provided to 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 bee based 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.

Eliminating Illegal Dumping in Puerto Rico

Edwin Vázquez-Asencio, Sustainable Materials Management Specialist, RCAP Solutions, Puerto Rico

Collores is one of the most named barrios in Juana Díaz PR. It was the birth place of  poet Luis Llorens Torres, one of the most important journalists of the first decades in the 20th century in PR. As a lawyer, playwright, politician and poet, he was responsible for the immortalization of the beauty of the rural areas of Collores in his writings. But in recent decades some of the beauty of “El Valle de Collores” was lost as a result of poor management of the solid waste.

Due to the collaborative strategy and the efforts between the “Solid Waste Taskforce” members and the communities, we can appreciate a positive change.  The Natural Resources Department contacted RCAP to refer a situation with the establishment of an illegal dumping site in the Agustinillo Sector at the road 512 km 4.2.  The place near the river is been used for the accumulation of solid waste for future pickup by the municipality.  Using the information in the RCAP solid waste brochure published in the community newspaper, some residents called the DRNA  Vigilant Corp. to complain about the problem. The lieutenant in charge, looking for a more proactive way to deal with the situation, oriented the residents in the sector and some interviews were made by RCAP TAP.pr dumping

“The residents who agree with this practice alleged that the area was designated by the municipality employees who collect the materials. They also claimed that the collection service has been delayed for a few weeks; according to them, maybe more than two months.”

With the assistance of the DRNA the residents were oriented about the consequences of that practice for the environment, the river and their health, also the legal penalties associated with the intervention from the DRNA and the police.

The community ceases the practice and contacted the municipality officers for the collection with the information provided during our intervention.  TAP call the Juana Díaz DTOP Director to let him know about the situation and coordinate the removal of the materials. The DRNA on their part contacted JD DTOP to require action on the collection of the materials. The municipality took action immediately.

With the participation of residents of the Agustinillo sector, TAP performed a cleaning and restoration of the area used for illegal dumping.  The small illegal dumping site in progress was stopped and eliminated. The place was programed for the developing of a land scape that will be adopted by community members.  Community groups such as; the Colectivo Valle de Collores, were involved in the process and additional members of other sectors will be contributing with the design of a landscape.

The DRNA donated endemic bushes for the place.  The activity was reported to the Regional Offices of DRNA and all stakeholders, as a result of this, the State Department of Transportation and Public Works collaborated with the initiative and invited the community to their nursery for orientation and selection of other ornamental plants. The adoption of the area is going to be made formally by DTOP. The residents are in the process of developing a project in which they can integrate food crops and ornamentals in the area in order to address the interest of residents with different interests.  Some banana trees were planted in the background as suggested by the some of them.

The PR Natural Resources Department Vigilant Corp was present on the cleanup and the possible violators of the law were identified for orientation about the situation and the possible repercussions of their behavior.  A sign donated by Colectivo Valle de Collores was placed in the area with a positive message: “ Isla Adentro: peces, flores, pájaros, aire puro, aguas cristalinas…pr dumping1Consérvalos.  (Inside Island: fish, flowers, birds, pure air, crystal clear waters…Preserve it).

After a few months the place remains clean and the donated plants are in the area waiting for the final design and the top soil conditioning. Collores is going back to be the idyllic place nostalgically described by one of its favorite sons; who immortalized its rural beauty before the solid waste were part of the scene.  Thanks to the team work of the taskforce created by RCAP and the community support Collores is changing for good; the empowerment of the community is taking place in the solid waste management and we are convinced of the success of or approach.

RCAP Solutions Staff Receive National Awards

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

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Robert B. Stewart, Executive Director, RCAP, Inc. with Candace Balmer, Community Development Specialist, RCAP Solutions, receiving The Bill French Bridge-builder Award.

Candace Balmer, Community Development Specialist, New York, was the recipient of the The Bill French Bridge-builder Award, given to an RCAP staff member who has been successful in building his/her 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/or primacy agencies or other partners, new services offered to communities, and/or 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 her state program to a higher level of operations. The recipient has, in the sense of being a bridge, enabled a program to cross over barriers, led a program along a road to realize a vision, and brought a plan to fruition. The person has been a true connector and has led programs to success.

 

Scott Mueller, Chief Community Services Officer & Director Rural Assistance with Karen Koller, President & CEO, RCAP Solutions after being presented with the Outstanding Mentor Award.

Scott Mueller, Chief Community Services Officer & Director Rural Assistance with Karen Koller, President & CEO, RCAP Solutions after being presented with the Outstanding Mentor Award.

 

Scott Mueller, Chief Community Services Officer & Director Rural Assistance, received the Outstanding Mentor Award for teaching and mentoring new Technical Assistance Providers and helping them become productive members of the RCAP team. This award is given to a State/Regional Coordinator who has made a difference in the program through his expert guidance and valuable knowledge and being a nurturing, fostering leader.

Testimonial – Village of Granville, NY

villagemainI am writing to express the Village of Granville’s appreciation and strong support for Mark Johnson of RCAP Solutions Inc.  Mr. Johnson has been instrumental in developing the operations and maintenance plan for the Village’s new Water Treatment Plant, completed in 2012.  Mr. Johnson is consistently organized and prepared, and he has utilized his experience to aid the Village with numerous recommendations in maintaining compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, as well as to make the plant safer and more efficient.

At a time when the Village has been short staffed due to budgetary constraints (operating with a staff of 6 instead of 8), Mr. Johnson’s assistance and counsel has been most helpful. The Operations and Maintenance Plan that he has helped to develop is an absolute necessity for the future, as the Village will be losing two of our senior operators to retirement in the next 24 months.

Mr. Johnson has consistently displayed a professional and positive attitude in assisting the Village throughout the process. On behalf of the Village, I would like to express our sincere appreciation, and also state that we hope for the opportunity to continue our relationship with him in the future as time and funding allow.

Sincerely,

Scott Mackey

Mechanic/Water Plant Operator

Village of Granville, Granville, New York

Operation and Maintenance Plans: A Blue Print of Your System

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Thomas W. Essig, Jr., RCAP Solutions Pennsylvania and New Jersey State Lead

Overview:

A system’s Operation and Maintenance Plan (OMP) is a formal document that describes how a water system is to be safely operated on a daily basis. It details how to provide system service while adhering to permit requirements and safeguarding public health. This plan contains a comprehensive description of water sources, treatment processes, storage tank data and distribution system information. It must be prepared in a way that provides accurate depictions of daily routine operational and maintenance procedures. It should include examples of record keeping and emergency response procedures.

The OMP should be prepared completed in a way that it clearly explains to another operator how to run the water system and keep it in compliance with all laws, rules and regulations. This document ensures adequate safe drinking water to the community if current system personnel were unable to operate the system for whatever reason. It provides direction so that all employees are aware of their individual roles and responsibilities for operating the system. Because all waster systems, even those of similar design, are run differently – the template should be customized to each system’s size, source water, treatment techniques and distribution system needs. It should convey a complete and concise understanding of the water system’s operations.

This chart shows the interrelationships of an Operations and Maintenance Plan with other important planning activities of a water system.

This chart shows the interrelationships of an Operations and Maintenance Plan with other important planning activities of a water system.

This critical system document should be reviewed and updated on an annual basis at minimum. If new system infrastructure is expanded or assets are added, they should be included in as much detail as possible to the plan. There should be multiple copies of the plan kept at different locations and it should be distributed to operations staff, management and board members. This is to help ensure that a copy of the plan is available for use should the plant or treatment facility suddenly go out of service due to a natural or man caused emergency such as a flooding event while ensuring that all stakeholders of the water system gain a basic understanding of infrastructure assets, locations and operations.

It is interesting to note that while many state primacy agencies have produced OMP manuals and templates, there is not a standardized OMP document. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a check list of items to be included in an OMP and many states accept a system “SOP” – Standard Operating Procedures document produced by the engineer or operator to serve as an OMP. So it is important for a water system to check in with their regulatory agency to determine what type of document is needed to fulfill the OMP requirement. The various primacy templates also vary in what should be included in an OMP as well as the level of technical sophistication required. Examples of this include latitude and longitude locations for system assets or providing various customer notification forms in English and Spanish. A copy of the completed OMP is typically required to be kept at the system facility and is to be made available upon request from state primacy staff.

Components of an OMP:

This graph demonstrates the benefits of a good preventative maintenance over time. Managed deterioration demonstrated by proper maintenance within the management zone increases the useful life of the asset versus a “no maintenance scenario” of running an asset to failure.

This graph demonstrates the benefits of a good preventative maintenance over time. Managed deterioration demonstrated by proper maintenance within the management zone increases the useful life of the asset versus a “no maintenance scenario” of running an asset to failure.

Most OMPs begin with basic system data such as the system name, public water system identification number, address, contact information, system type, the person preparing the plan and the date completion and any subsequent revision or updates. Additional information can include: system ownership; responsible officials; service area; population served; permit numbers; and listing various operator certifications.

The OMP then often “flows” in a way similar to the way that water processes through the system. This includes records for sources such as wells, springs, purchased water, pumps, booster pumps and master meter information. More detailed information on sources can include:

  • Well location, date drilled, yield, depth, location, static and pumped water levels, pipe diameter and if casing is grouted
  • Well pump information such as type of pump, manufacturer, horse power, booster pumps, whether controls are manual, digital or automatic and if there is a SCADA – remote control system
  • Important master meter records can include location, size, type, if there is chart or digital data recording and the last calibration date

The next topic covered in the OMP defines the system treatment processes and is one of the most important components of an OMP. This section is fairly comprehensive and covers procedures for maximizing operating techniques and preventative maintenance of your facilities and assets. A well-organized OMP helps ensure critical activities are performed by staff on time. A proper maintenance program and schedule will increase the working life of your equipment, thus reducing operating costs over time. Typically system assets are identified, flowed by operation techniques and the maintenance programs. Items to be considered for inclusion in this section are:

  • Disinfection chemical utilized, strength, chemical supplier, chemical feeder type data and design contact time and chlorine residual
  • Descriptions of raw and finished water storage including locations, capacities, specifications and age
  • Distribution information should include pipe material, diameter, cross connection and back flow programs, as well as the number and location of valves, hydrants and meters
  • A distribution system map and treatment system schematic should be provided, as well as water main replacement contact information
  • Spare parts and chemical inventories and location with contact information for the local supplier
  • An equipment manufacturer’s operation and maintenance specifications attachment and local vendor contact information
  • Analytical laboratory contact information with policies and procedures for system monitoring and sampling protocols

The next section of an OMP will typically describe start-up and shut down procedures and should go into as much detail as necessary to conduct these activities. Considering all of the equipment involved in running a water system, this information can be quite detailed and lengthy depending on the size of the system. Items requiring consideration are the location of start-up and shutdown equipment, controls and electrical equipment. A check list should be included for start-up equipment and chemical inspections, as well as pre-shutdown procedures and activities. Additional items here should also include:

  • Tasks such as checking gauges, where and when to check chlorine residuals, visual equipment inspections, valve exercising policy and fire hydrant flushing frequency
  • Routine operations should be described as to who is responsible for performing each task and the frequency – daily, weekly, monthly etc.
  • System emergency flags such as a drop in water pressure and distribution entry point residual or rapidly draining storage tanks should have subsequent emergency operating procedures
  • Contact information and techniques for customer and regulatory official notifications and protocols for emergency response including incident follow-up actions
  • Copies of the annual Consumers Confidence Report and the Sanitary Survey should be attached
  • Emergency mutual aid agreements with local water systems or membership information with a state WARN (Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network) should be included

Conclusions:

The OMP is a dynamic and all-inclusive document that covers critical aspects of properly running a water system.  Research for this article from EPA guidance tools and various state primacy templates has demonstrated that there is a wide variance in plan requirements and complexity. Standardization of OMPs would be of benefit by easing plan preparation, providing better comprehension by new system operators and improving emergency response in large multi-state disaster events.   The RCAP national network of field technical assistance providers can help small systems prepare an OMP and often at no cost to the system.

RCAP Solutions Opens Portland, Maine Office

Maine LogoNew office kicks off an overall branding campaign to promote regional offices and capabilities

RCAP Solutions recently hosted a grand opening to celebrate the newest field office for the Community Resources Division, which promotes public, environmental and economic health by providing consulting, planning, financing, regulatory and compliance oversight, management and operational support for a wide range of community development and infrastructure projects.

RCAP Solutions is the Northeast affiliate of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) national network of nonprofit organizations working to ensure that rural and small communities through the United States have access to safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater and solid waste disposal.

RCAP Solutions provides services in all six New England states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Historically, we have always had field staff members located in all of the states we represent,” stated Karen A. Koller, President & CEO for RCAP Solutions. “The nature of our work requires our Community Development Specialists to travel to the communities they serve and as a result, the majority of our field staff has worked out of home offices. Our regional expansion plan focuses on branding each of our states to promote our services. Our goal is to bring recognition and visibility to the organization, allowing our staff to deliver new and expanded programs throughout the states and in the communities we serve.”

RCAP Solutions has two staff members located in Maine, Arthur Astarita, Lead Water Resources Specialist for Maine, and Rebecca Reynolds, Community Development Specialist.

“We are thrilled to have an office in downtown Portland,” stated Arthur Astarita. “Our new location will provide visibility for the organization and an opportunity to create awareness of our programs. It’s a city with a rich history and diverse commerce, and its proximity to Augusta and major highways makes it the ideal location for our Maine office.”

Mr. Astarita’s office was formerly a home office located in Peak’s Island, Maine.

Maine Communities1Since 2006, RCAP Solutions has provided training for over 45 communities and water districts across the state of Maine. Currently, RCAP Solutions has 34 active projects in each county within the State of Maine. (Click map for locations.)

Services provided by the RCAP Solutions Maine Office include digital mapping, asset management, user rate analysis, income and community surveys, assistance in hiring an engineering firm, funding applications and consulting.

For more information about our Maine Office and the services provided, please contact Arthur Astarita, State Lead for Maine at 207- 766-3065, email: aastarita@rcapsolutions.org, or visit www.rcapsolutions.org/maine.