2nd Annual RuralRISE National Entrepreneurship Summit to take place in Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Pine Bluff, Arkansas (September 17, 2019) – A coalition of partners is pleased to announce the second annual RuralRISE Summit, a national event focused on building rural entrepreneurial ecosystems, driving economic prosperity, and supporting doers and innovators in rural communities across America.

From September 17 – 19, rural leaders from across the country will gather at the Pine Bluff Convention Center in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to address both the challenges and opportunities facing rural entrepreneurs throughout the United States.

“From rural Alaska to rural Appalachia, entrepreneurship and innovation span America’s rural communities,” said Joe Kapp, President of the National Center for Resource Development. “RuralRISE brings together rural leaders from across the country to share their expertise and experiences to help new rural businesses launch and their ecosystems thrive.”

At this event, attendees will have the opportunity to actively participate and collaborate with other entrepreneurial leaders from across the country in order to seek out practical, scalable, and replicable solutions to drive real results in rural American communities.

“Ultimately, the goal of this conference is to transform rural communities and create opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship to take place.” Says Nathan Ohle, Executive Director of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP). “Innovation is in the DNA of rural communities, and we are excited to help raise the voice of entrepreneurs in these areas across the country.”

For more information and to register, please visit: www.ruralrise.org

HCEC Workshops Cancelled Until Further Notice

RCAP Solutions’ Housing Consumer Education Center workshops are cancelled until further notice. This includes all online workshops as well as our First Time Homebuyer and Financial Wellness Workshops.

Please note this will not affect our scheduled RAFT Intake hours on Tuesday and Friday from 9:00 to 11:00 AM at our office located at 12 East Worcester Street, 2nd Floor, Worcester or our RAFT Screening Walk-In Hours at Montachusett Opportunity Council (MOC) at 49 Nursery Lane, 2nd Floor, Fitchburg every fourth Thursday of the month from 9:00 to 11:00 AM.

If you need immediate assistance, please call 800.488.1969 or email hcec@rcapsolutions.org.

RCAP Solutions Plans and Participates in the 27th Annual New Hampshire Drinking Water Festival

RCAP Solutions also sponsored the event, which was attended by over 400 fourth-graders.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau recently held their 27th Annual Fourth Grade Drinking Water Festival at the Manchester Water Treatment Plant. The event, which took place during National Drinking Water Week, aimed to heighten the awareness of water resources and help students recognize water’s relationship to other resources.

Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

The festival was sponsored by the New Hampshire Drinking Water Coalition in conjunction with the NHDES, as well as other organizations, including RCAP Solutions. New Hampshire State Lead, Erick Toledo, was a member of the planning committee. More than 400 students from 11 different schools participated. Operators, scientists, consultants, artists, and environmental educators from public water systems, non-profit organizations, and other agencies joined together to share their expertise.

In addition to education displays and exhibits, the event also featured age-appropriate activities such as a water poetry competition, live music, and storytelling – all related to water quality, conservation, erosion, the effects of pollution, and more.

RCAP Solutions and other environmental health professionals were not the only ones exhibiting; the NH state-level Water Science Fair gave students the opportunity conduct research, create an exhibit, write a report, and present their findings to a panel of judges at the festival.

When asked about why it is important to engage the youth about these topics, Toledo said, “They are the future leaders, educators, researchers, scientists, and maybe even operators.” He continued, “They have the energy, the curiosity, the ability to do great things, to develop projects and articulate ideas. Their brains are like sponges of knowledge.”

Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

RCAP Solutions’ Massachusetts Homeownership Collaborative Seal of Approval Renewed

Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association Approves Renewal Application

RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce that the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) has renewed the organization’s application for the Massachusetts Homeownership Collaborative Seal of Approval, effective through June 30, 2021.

The application, which was reviewed by CHAPA’s Collaborative’s Selection Committee, confirms that RCAP Solutions meets the criteria that has been established by the Massachusetts Homeownership Collaborative for the provision of pre-purchase homebuyer education and counseling services to low and moderate income households. The Homeownership Collaborative, which was formed in 1996, is an initiative managed by CHAPA that supports and promotes homebuyer education.

As an agency that has received a Seal of Approval from the Homeownership Collaborative, RCAP Solutions must adhere to their Code of Ethics, listed here. In addition, when providing homebuyer education classes targeted to those with low and moderate income, RCAP Solutions must cover the required information about the homebuying process; information which is determined by the Collaborative.

The purpose of administering these programs “is to educate and counsel prospective homebuyers to make informed, voluntary decisions regarding the homebuying process.” RCAP Solutions also has agreed with the Collaborative to provide transparency in regards to where our funding sources for these classes come from. If you have any questions regarding this, please contact our Housing and Consumer Education Center at hcec@rcapsolutions.org.

RCAP Solutions holds First Time Homebuyer Classes at the Worcester office almost every month. To view and register for an upcoming class, please visit our HCEC Events Calendar. To view the full letter from CHAPA and to read the full Seal of Approval, click here.

Free Water Operator Training Takes a Hands-On and Holistic Approach

This February, members of our state-side community resources team held a free operator training in Vermont. The training, which focused on disinfection and water quality monitoring, spanned four hours and gave attendees the chance to collect and test samples.

Mark Johnson, RCAP Solutions’ State Lead in Vermont, explained that “The class combined important theoretical concepts on disinfection with hands-on chlorine residual and coliform sampling exercises.”

This training, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, enabled Vermont operators to earn Training Contact Hours or THCs. These TCHs are accumulated so that water system operators can renew their certification, something that needs to be done every three years.

In addition to the hands-on experience, attendees were grateful for the networking opportunities, with one participant telling us, “Talking with Mark and other operators was informative. Good presentation.” Johnson continued on this, “Even for the most seasoned operator, the opportunity to improve on skills and compare technique with other operators is invaluable.”

Attendees hone their chlorine residual analysis technique and learn how to use both low and high range for analysis. High range chlorine analysis is not commonly practiced by operators, but it is an important skill for them to have if needed for emergency disinfection or to respond to a chlorine overfeed situation.

Make History Today | NH Gives

Donate to RCAP Solutions today and sponsor life-saving well water testing kits for New Hampshire residents.

Have you dreamed of making history? Of course, we all have. Now you have a chance to be a part of New Hampshire’s day of giving, and to top it off, your gift will go twice as far! Every donation will be matched by a very generous, anonymous donor.

Did you know that almost half of all New Hampshire residents get their drinking water from Private Wells? RCAP Solutions partners with many organizations to provide awareness, education, well assessment tools, testing kits, and treatment options in order to provide private well owners with safe drinking water.

With your donation of just $15, $30, $85 or more, you will help New Hampshire Residents by:

  • Providing free well water tests to residents in rural communities
  • Ensuring that families have water that’s free of harmful contaminants
  • Preventing cancer and other life-threatening diseases
  • Providing private well owners with safe drinking water
  • Giving small communities the resources to keep water healthy and clean

Starting at 6:00 PM on June 11, visit http://bit.ly/NHGives2019 and make your gift to support clean drinking water for New Hampshire residents. NH Gives ends at 6:00 PM on June 12.

No matter the size of the donation it will help provide small and rural communities with necessary resources to keep New Hampshire residents’ water healthy and clean.

Questions? If you have any questions or would like more information about private wells, visit www.rcapsolutions.org/private-wells/ or contact Martin Mistretta, New Hampshire Water Compliance Specialist, at Mmistretta@rcapsolutions.org or 603-312-7901.

Thank you in advance for your generosity to RCAP Solutions!

New Testimonial Sheds Light on Importance of Training Sessions

“You don’t know how happy I am.” RCAP Solutions’ team in Puerto Rico recently held a review session that yielded impressive turnout and results

A few months ago, the Puerto Rican Treatment Plant Operators Board of Examiners announced an exam for current and would-be drinking water treatment plant operators. As a result of this announcement, several communities requested assistance in preparing. RCAP Solutions’ team in Puerto Rico quickly arranged a free training session, opened registration, and just as quickly filled all of the available spaces.

The training session was conducted in November 2018 and covered areas of math, biology, physics, and chemistry – as well as other topics like safety, equipment maintenance, regulation, and public health. The goal was to assist prospective operators who already had basic knowledge of how to treat community systems by giving them a “refresher course” regarding topics that would be on the exam.

The session attendees who took the exam recently got their results back. One participant who passed with an exceptional score told us, “You don’t know how happy I am, this means a lot to me in many ways. I felt I needed to tell you guys the great news first. It was not the first time I took the exam and the training was a difference this time. Thanks to all [at the] RCAP team.”

Juan Campos Collazo, our Community Development Specialist in Puerto Rico, led the training and was assisted by Carlos Velazquez-Figueroa, a Wastewater Technician. Campos Collazo expressed his thoughts, “The relationship between [the participants] and RCAP Solutions is an open one, with confidence to talk about their experience in the field and to ask questions. They have the opportunity to be themselves, be taken seriously, and be treated with respect.”

He continued, “The refresher training is maybe their best chance, for some of them – the only chance, to prepare for the Operator Certification Exam. I would add that this is the best investment for the required effort, as a certified operator will be more careful in the operation of a system in order to keep his license and will rely on better operation practices, thus producing more reliable drinking water.” He finished his thoughts with one final statement about the sessions, “We should keep doing them.”

Imagine a Day Without Water

It can be easy to forget that some issues we all care about cut across political and geographic lines. Constituents may have different opinions on health care and tax reform, but when it comes to our daily lives, voters have a lot in common. They get up in the morning and brush their teeth, use the bathroom, and make coffee. They shower, do their laundry, and wash the dishes. But none of which would be possible without safe and reliable water infrastructure.

If you’ve never experienced it before, it’s hard to imagine a day without water. Most citizens recognize that water is essential to our quality of life. In fact, the vast majority of Americans, across parties and regions, want the government to invest in our water infrastructure. The data shows 88 percent of Americans support increasing federal investment to rebuild water infrastructure, and 75 percent of Americans want Congress to be proactive and invest in our nation’s water infrastructure before our systems fail.

Renewed investment in our water infrastructure isn’t only about avoiding a day without water for personal use. A day without water would mean havoc for businesses and our economy too. Basically, every business is a water reliant business in one way or another.

According to the Value of Water Campaign’s report on The Economic Benefits of Investing in Water Infrastructure, a one-day disruption in water services at a national level would result in a $43.5 billion daily sales loss to businesses.

Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect between what Americans value and the actions of the federal government. Investment in water infrastructure has not been a priority for decades. The federal government’s investment has declined precipitously, leaving states, localities, water utilities, and people who pay water bills to make up the difference. Meanwhile, our systems are crumbling. The US government is currently funding $82 billion less than what is needed to maintain our water infrastructure, putting our health, safety, economy, and environment at risk.

So, what can we do about it?

Today, October 10, 2018, is Imagine a Day Without Water, a national day of action to raise awareness about the value of water. We have the opportunity to leverage our collective power, educate our decision makers, and inspire our communities to put water infrastructure on the agenda. There is a groundswell of communities and partners coming together to promote safe and reliable water systems on Imagine a Day Without Water. Together, on this fourth annual day of action, we can make a difference.

No matter what the cause, a day without water is a public health and environmental crisis. That’s why we are joining with hundreds of groups across the country for Imagine a Day Without Water to educate our communities on the value of water. No community can thrive without water, and every American deserves a safe, reliable, accessible water services. Let’s invest in our water systems now, so no American ever has to imagine a day – or live a day – without water again.

Operator Training and Community Engagement Workshop, Potluck Style

Kathy Rodgers, NH State Lead and Sarah Buck, Deputy Director, Community Resources

When you think of your typical water operator training for seasoned or prospective operators, you likely would envision a room set up classroom style at a utility, community space or hotel, filled with men and women in work boots, all on call, coffee in hand, trying to sit as close to the back of the room as possible, there to get the required continuing education hours needed to maintain their operation license. The word potluck would not even come to mind, but if done right, that promise of shared food, can bring together seasoned operators to assist a community concerned about their distribution system and water quality. This concept was successfully piloted at the Pepperidge Woods water system in Barrington, NH in November 2017, entitled: Distribution System & Community Engagement Workshop.

An animated exchange of information was had by all participants.

Small community public water systems are often run by volunteer operation committees within homeowners’ associations, Co-ops, small Village Districts, etc. Operation committees are a great way to keep costs down and retain institutional knowledge. However, when water quality diminishes, the community may need to seek outside resources to help identify and tackle their issues. That was the impetus for this unique and successful potluck training. Experienced operators would have an opportunity to earn continuing education units while utilizing their expertise to assist a community that, in this case, was experiencing low pressure and brown water.

This idea of an educational potluck with operators, community & board members, and TA providers may not work everywhere, but, in the places that it might, there are a few best practices to keep in mind to ensure a successful experience. First of all, you need a community sparkplug that will draw community residents to the event.   That sparkplug is someone who understands the needs of the community and is willing to partner with you to accomplish a specific goal.

In this case, Jane Astley, a member of the finance committee for Pepperidge Woods, worked with the board, the operation committee, neighboring system leaders, and residents to bring in RCAP to lead a training to educate them on their water quality and effective distribution maintenance methods. It was Jane’s idea to host a potluck. Jane understood the importance of an evening shared over food. Both community members and operators took ownership of the workshop by contributing home cooked food–good food, too. RCAP’s staff learned that NH water operators really know how to cook and can make a mean chowdah!

Bear in mind, if the workshop is offered to address a problem, then there will naturally be grievances that residents will want to express. To keep the workshop productive, create a very structured agenda and follow it closely. Revisit the agenda after each section and abide the times to keep things moving along. Assure the group that you will address their individual concerns and leave ample time for open discussion during the “practical” portion of the workshop. Start out with the basic training to enable a baseline of understanding for the general audience.

Research the community prior to the workshop. It is important to have a good grasp on the community needs to tailor the content. For the NH potluck, the RCAP trainer utilized the Area 1 RCAP/AWWA Distribution training materials. The primary audience was Pepperidge Woods’ operational committee and board members, which had limited to no hands-on operational experience. Knowing the distribution system components, water quality issues, and applied treatment enabled the slide deck and examples to be geared towards the host community, Pepperidge Woods.  Water quality topics such as hydrants and nitrification were brushed to the side as it didn’t pertain to them—only the topics most relevant to this system were covered during the workshop.

Another good practice is to establish a group agreement on productive conversation or a set of “ground rules” to avoid conflict and promote a more synergistic workshop. The recommendations provided in the agreement can include:

  • Share “air time.”
  • If you disagree, consider asking a question rather than arguing to prove your point.
  • It’s okay to disagree, but don’t personalize it. Stick to the issue, not the person who is disagreeing with you.
  • Speak up if the process doesn’t seem fair.
  • Speak for yourself, not for others and not for an entire group (use “I” statements).
  • Personal stories stay in the group unless we all agree we can share them outside of the group.
  • We all share responsibility for making the group productive.
  • Be respectful and use respectful language.
  • Respect the facilitator’s role.
  • Listen first

 

Allow the community to break into small groups with the seasoned operators in attendance to help identify issues that they have encountered. Bring the group back together to report out and post the identified problems. In this case, brown water and low pressure were the predominant concerns. Then break back into small groups to discuss what could be causing the problem. Again, bring the group back together to outline potential root causes.

Community members listen and share ideas.

During the workshop, the experienced operators were eager to share several potential reasons that could contribute to the brown water and low-pressure issues. A lot of these reasons had not been previously discussed. After further trainer led discussion, the group was able to agree on the most probable root causes and discussed how to address those concerns moving forward.

The community was delighted to have new perspectives and ideas on how to work through their existing and any future issues.  The operators were more than happy to help and the whole group was so entrenched in the process that nobody was in a hurry to leave. Conversations and expressions of appreciation were still going on at least 15 minutes after the workshop’s close.  Ideally, you want to make sure that all attendees feel welcomed, are engaged, and are able to get something valuable out of the experience. The NH workshop evaluations confirmed that both the operators and community enjoyed this fresh style of training and found great value in the experience. The NH RCAP trainer is now working to develop a workshop using the same operator and community engagement potluck approach to introduce digital mapping to another small system.

RCAP Solutions and Water Mission Join Efforts After Hurricane María to Bring Clean Water to Rural Communities

Edwin Vazquez-Asencio, Sustainable Materials Management Specialist, Puerto Rico

Mr. Vazquez teaches community members about the importance of water purification.

San Diego is a small community located in the hills of Coamo, Puerto Rico. They have been providing water to community members for a long time, but not under the official status of a public water system. Because of this, the water quality has not been regulated for many years. The PR Department of Health, in coordination with the EPA, referred them to RCAP Solutions to help them to develop an official and reliable system.

The community, with a small donation from the municipal government, drilled a well despite the topography challenges of the area. Their economic restrictions and a lack of technical assistance at the time of construction caused them to place the well between a ditch and a pluvial discharging area. When RCAP Solutions evaluated the situation, RCAP taught the community about the elevated risk of losing the well in its current location and the immediate negative effects that they might face if a heavy rain event occurs.

RCAP helped them chlorinate the water and become compliant with the required test schedules. As the system began making positive changes, the catastrophic hurricanes hit Puerto Rico; and Coamo was devastated, along with most rural areas on the island. Hurricane Irma brought rain and landslides to the area, leaving them without communication and in terrible condition. A week later, Hurricane Maria, considered the worst storm in the history of Puerto Rico, took out what little was left. The community lost their well and part of their distribution system. The well area was covered by three to four feet of rocks, gravel and pebbles.

The island’s main power grid was destroyed, with no electric power in San Diego and the estimated time for recovery is still unknown. The community was able to get the old water system online with a superficial water source, a small storage tank and gravity-fed distribution, but without any kind of filtration, disinfection or water quality testing. This was the only choice they had to continue water service for their residents.

After RCAP’s assessment of the situation, San Diego was instructed to inform the community members about the change of source, the absence of treatment, and the need to boil the water before using it.

In the efforts to provide alternatives to the community, RCAP Solutions contacted Water Mission (WM), a faith-based not for profit organization that seeks to ensure safe drinking water access across the globe. RCAP coordinated a site visit to perform a second assessment, and water samples were taken to determine the kind of treatment needed. This would allow the team to determine the best course of action and decide whether point of use filters were an option for the community.

RCAP coordinated the delivery of a Kohler Clarifier provided by Water Mission, an effective filtration system that can purify drinking water without electricity.

RCAP Solutions coordinated assistance, teaching  the community about the equipment and disinfection. Aquatabs were provided for additional water disinfection after the filtration process, thanks to the Puerto Rico Department of Health.

Water Mission staff has provided meaningful assistance with many RCAP Solutions supported communities, resulting in a very fruitful partnership. After WM’s intervention during the emergency phase, they are counting on RCAP Solutions’ support to follow up and assist with the long-term recovery process of this small public system.  As a result of this collaboration, the residents of San Diego have filtered water and are less vulnerable to diseases related to the consumption of untreated water. 

Surveying the damage after Hurricane Maria, the well area was covered by three to four feet of rocks, gravel and pebbles.

This disaster has presented an opportunity for this community. For many years, the community as a whole has participated minimally in the administration of the water system, but this crisis has forced them to become better educated about their drinking water and will hopefully create a willingness to become more involved in the future.

Most recently, RCAP Solutions  helped the community recover their missing well casing and  the well pump. While their generator cannot carry the electric load of running the system,  RCAP will assist the community in reconstructing their well in a more secure location that should prevent future damage.  San Diego is working hard to recover what was lost and RCAP will help them maximize limited resources and ensure the best possible long-term results.