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

RCAP Receives Award from Department of Agriculture

RCAP Solutions has been awarded $244,831 from the USDA-Logo-300x167 Department of Agriculture’s RCDI grant program.

This grant will allow RCAP Solutions the opportunity to undertake 33 Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping or technical assistance projects to 14 recipients and 20 beneficiaries in rural and low income communities in Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico that work to develop the capacity of the recipients through the provision of training, technical assistance and the development and outreach resource materials.

The primary focus of the projects is to increase the capacity of small, rural water and wastewater systems by providing high level GIS services and technical assistance and training.

RCAP will also provide financial and technical assistance to recipients to develop their capacity and ability to undertake related projects for housing, community facilities, or community and economic development by providing technical, financial, managerial training and technical assistance that focuses on board development, energy efficiency, source water protection, asset management, and effective utility management.

“This is the second time that we have been awarded this grant, but with a sizable increase over our last award,” stated Karen A. Koller, President & CEO of RCAP Solutions. “This award will allow us to increase the capacity of small, rural water and wastewater systems by providing high level GIS services and technical assistance and training in Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico.”

The overall goal of the project is to increase the capacity of the recipients through the provision of training and technical assistance as well as the implantation of a GIS solution specifically designed for each beneficiary.  Each local beneficiary will be equipped with a cutting-edge GIS solution capable of significantly improving operational efficiency.

Water and wastewater facilities are one of the primary factors that limit the community and economic development opportunities in rural areas.  Enhancing the capacity at such facilities supports effective management of this infrastructure.  Furthermore, training and technical assistance will help in developing the capacity to implement and utilize GIS technology.  GIS is an important and effective tool for infrastructure management, land use planning, and community outreach and consensus-building.

RCAP has the training materials and delivery network, skilled rural community technical assistance providers, and relationships with county planning offices to make these services accessible and beneficial to the rural and low income systems participating in this project.

RCAP will meet with each recipient prior to commencing each project to discuss project work plans and goals and will use a variety of benchmarks to measure the success of the program.

Disclaimer: Any RCAP Solutions work completed with small communities for GIS is strictly to provide data to small systems and counties and is in no way intended for design, construction and surveying use.

National Legislative Update

Legislative update for NLProvided by Ted Stiger, Director of Policy, Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP)

Congress needs to pass a stopgap spending before this current fiscal year ends on September 30. Congress continues to debate a measure that would fund government programs at current levels (fiscal year 2016) until December 9. Senate leaders hope to pass their version of the bill this week to avoid a government shutdown and keep federal agencies funded into FY 2017, which starts on October 1. The House is likely to follow the Senate and adopt the same measure.

 Congressional leaders have not reached a deal yet on emergency Zika virus funding and language restricting funds for Planned Parenthood from the Zika package, which has caused delays in getting the funding measure passed.

Congress will still have to return in a lame-duck session after the elections to complete the full FY 2017 appropriations process.

On September 15, the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA)-S. 2848. The legislation identifies $4.5 billion of water-related infrastructure projects and authorizes $4.9 billion for drinking and clean water infrastructure over five years.

The measure also provides $220 million in direct emergency assistance to address drinking water issues in communities such as Flint, MI.

Of interest to RCAP, the bill authorizes a grant program to assist small and disadvantaged communities in complying with the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. A priority is given to underserved communities without basic drinking water or wastewater services. This section authorizes $230 million for FY 2017, and $300 million for each of fiscal years 2018 through 2021.

Additionally, the bill establishes a technical assistance program for small treatment works, to be carried out by qualified nonprofit technical service providers. Authorizes $15 million a year for five years. A full section by section summary of the bill is attached in the appendices of this report.

Over in the House, legislative efforts are underway to move their WRDA package (H.R. 5303) for floor consideration this week. Should the House pass its WRDA package, a conference committee could work to reconcile the respective Senate and House packages in time for enactment of the final bill during a December Lame Duck session.

Ted Stiger joined RCAP in 2016 as Policy Director and is responsible for the organization’s national policy and legislative efforts as well as RCAP’s USDA grant portfolio.  

RCAP Solutions is the Northeast affiliate of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership. The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) is a national network of nonprofit organizations working to ensure that rural and small communities throughout the United States have access to safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater disposal. The six regional RCAPs  its partners or affiliates provide a variety of programs in their section of the United States to accomplish this goal, such as direct training and technical assistance; leveraging millions of dollars to assist communities develop and improve their water and wastewater systems.

A Note of Thanks from a Client

We are always pleased to receive feedback from the clients and communities we serve.

We were especially grateful for this recent note from the South Ashmere Water Association, located in Hinsdale, MA, in Berkshire County, which included a donation of $100. This contribution will help our organization to continue the important work we do to help individuals and communities to build pathways to self-sufficiency and expanded economic opportunity.

The note reads:

Dear Jim, Thank you note Ashmere

On behalf of the South Ashmere Water Association, I want to thank you for your help in shaping our asset management plan.  We could not have complied with the D.E.P. (Department of Environmental Protection) requirement or found a practical way of using the information without your help! 

Please accept the donation enclosed in appreciation for your service. 

Sincerely, 

Clay Knapp, President

RCAP/AWWA Workshop

RCAP AWWA Header

Small System Operator Training: Achieve and Maintain Compliance with the SDWA (Systems <10,000)

June 2 – Jeff’s Catering, 15 Littlefield Road, Brewer, ME – 8:00a.m. – 3:30p.m.

Workshop Description:
Your utility faces daily-to-day challenges providing reliable, safe drinking water for your customers while avoiding costly violations. The American Water Works Association (AWWA), in conjunction with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), and the New England Water Works Association (NEWWA) is offering a FREE 1-day workshop to help your utility learn about compliance with drinking water regulations and steps to avoid costly violations. This workshop is made possible by funding through the U.S. EPA and AWWA’s partner, RCAP.

Continuing Education Credits – AWWA will offer TCHs for workshop attendance (pending state approval at time of mailing).

Individual registration is required through NEWWA. Click here to download registration form

Course Presenters:

Arthur Astarita is a water resource specialist and the Maine State Lead for RCAP Solutions. He is a professional geologist and joined RCAP in March 1998 after 22 years as an international petroleum explorationist. He has helped complete numerous water and wastewater infrastructure improvement projects throughout New England.

Mark Johnson is a technical assistance provider and state lead in Vermont with RCAP Solutions. He has more than 15 years’ experience in water treatment and distribution. He has a bachelor’s in civil and environmental engineering from Northeastern University in Boston, and has worked in the municipal and private sector as a certified water treatment and distribution operator. He has been certified in water treatment, distribution, backflow testing, and cross connection control program administration in several states.

Rebecca Reynolds is a community development specialist with RCAP Solutions. She has more than 20 years’ experience in the water and wastewater field, including water and wastewater operations, laboratory processes, operator training, and asset management. She is a certified Class IV Water Treatment Operator, Class III Distribution System Operator, and Wastewater Treatment Operator V in Maine; a Certified Environmental Specialist, and a Certified Check Up for Small Systems (CUPSS) trainer.

Audience: Operators, managers, or governing body of a small system.

Click here to register or for more information

(Please note, to register, you must download, print and complete the form in the above link, then fax/email/mail to NEWWA)

 

Maine Field Office Grand Opening

 

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We’re Celebrating the Grand Opening of Our New Maine Field Office!

Thursday, May 12, 2016 ~ 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Ribbon Cutting & Presentations at 2:00 p.m.

RCAP Solutions, Inc.

477 Congress Street, 5th Floor, Portland, Maine 04101

Refreshments will be served

Please R.S.V.P. to
Maegen McCaffrey, Chief Communications Officer
978.630.6714, mmccaffrey@rcapsolutions.org

Click here for directions.

 

About RCAP Solutions:Maine Logo

Our Mission: To foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families and the communities in which they live.

Established in 1969, RCAP Solutions is a comprehensive 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, helping individuals, families and communities with a wide range of beneficial services providing our most basic needs including safe, affordable housing and clean drinking water. 

Our Community Resources Division 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), a national network of regional nonprofit organizations that provide comprehensive, on-site technical assistance and training to help small, rural communities address their drinking water, wastewater, and other community development needs.  We provide services in all six New England states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

This is Our Home: Tackling Rural Solid Waste Issues in Puerto Rico

IMG_0493As the snow storm winds down here in Central MA, we thought it appropriate to share a video made recently about the clean-up efforts RCAP is spearheading in Puerto Rico. This video shows the tremendous support shown by the community, resulting in over 400 volunteers coming together in the poor, rural barrio of Manzanillo, to clean a beach destroyed by illegal dumping. Our second annual clean-up will take place in just a few weeks in Guayabal, a similar area just a few miles away.

https://vimeo.com/143277565

Click here for more detailed information about the cleanup including before and after photos:  http://www.rcapsolutions.org/rcap-solutions-changes-lives-and-perceptions-in-a-rural-puerto-rican-community/

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!

Sincerely,

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

RCAP Solutions Staff Receive National Awards

Awards

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

Sukh

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

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

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.

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.

graphs

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.