RCAP Solutions Selected as Hannaford Cause Bag Beneficiary

RCAP Solutions, Inc. was selected as a beneficiary of the Hannaford Cause Bag program for the month of November.

The Hannaford Cause Bag program is designed to support local nonprofits through the sale of their reusable Hannaford Helps bag.

RCAP Solutions, Inc. was selected by Hannaford store leadership as the November beneficiary of the program at the 21 Timpany Boulevard, Gardner, MA Hannaford store. For every Hannaford Helps reusable bag with the good karma message purchased at the Hannaford Store in Gardner, MA during the month of November, RCAP Solutions, Inc. will receive a $1 donation.

“This is an exciting opportunity for RCAP Solutions as we kick off our holiday season giving campaign,” said Karen A. Koller, President & CEO. “Our focus this year is to raise funds to help Puerto Rican hurricane victims. With this initiative, we’re providing an opportunity for the greater Gardner area to support those in the U.S. Caribbean territories as they struggle to rebuild their lives and stabilize their future.”

The funds raised will be divided into two distinct categories. The first will be directed towards the immediate need of providing emergency housing and support services to those who have chosen to resettle either temporarily or permanently in Massachusetts. The second will be deployed over the coming months to assist with reconstruction and economic recovery projects to those on the island of Puerto Rico.

“RCAP Solutions is uniquely positioned to help those who have been devastated by the recent hurricanes,” continued Koller. “With our housing efforts in Worcester County and a seasoned technical assistance team in Puerto Rico, RCAP Solutions is ready and able to meet the needs of those who so desperately need our vital services.”

RCAP Solutions has set a goal of raising $20,000 during the holiday season to support these two important initiatives.

About RCAP Solutions, Inc.

Established in 1969, RCAP Solutions 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 a comprehensive nonprofit community development corporation that works with communities of all sizes to address a broad range of needs. RCAP Solutions is part of a coordinated nationwide network with an integrated, multi-faceted approach to delivering high-quality services customized to each community’s unique requirements. For more information, please visit http://www.rcapsolutions.org/.

For more information on the Hannaford Cause Bag program, visit hannaford.bags4mycause.com.

Baker-Polito Administration Provides $3 Million for Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy Installation at Water Treatment Facilities

Funding Grants Available to Municipal Drinking Water & Wastewater Treatment Facilities

BOSTON — In an effort to support clean energy and improve the efficiency of water infrastructure across the Commonwealth, the Baker-Polito Administration today announced that up to $3 million in gap funding grants will be made available to municipal drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities to help these plants reduce their energy use, operating costs and carbon footprint. The gap funding grant program is designed to expedite implementation of previously assessed energy efficiency and clean energy generation projects at municipal plants. The program helps to fill the last “gap” in project financing, enabling municipalities to use utility incentives and funds from other sources to build or install selected efficiency and clean energy projects.

“Protecting drinking water and continually improving our energy efficiency are priorities for our Administration, and the gap funding grant program will help support our clean energy resources while providing residents with safe, clean water,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “In addition to energy and environmental protections, the grants awarded will help lower operating costs and improve the resilience and climate readiness of the state’s water infrastructure.”

“Gap funding grants are a crucial resource for communities eager to upgrade important drinking and wastewater facilities,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Through the reduction of energy use and carbon emissions, cities and towns across the Commonwealth will recognize lower operating costs while enjoying environmental and air quality improvements.”

The initial round of grants from the gap funding program awarded 21 water and wastewater facilities more than $1.7 million to help fund 30 clean energy and efficiency projects. These projects leveraged nearly $2 million in additional energy utility incentives, leading to the installation of $10.9 million in clean energy improvement projects. The initial gap projects will reduce enough electricity to fully heat and power 897 Massachusetts homes every year for nearly 15 years. The resulting avoided greenhouse gas emissions is equivalent to removing 5,369 cars from the road for those 15 years.

“The announcement of streamlined financial support will allow facilities to take advantage of multiple funding sources and jump-start the installation of energy efficiency and clean energy generation projects,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “By filling the last gap in the financing package for these projects, communities around the state will be able to recognize significant cost savings that will be reinvested into drinking and wastewater facilities.”

In 2016, a cost-benefit analysis of the energy efficiency projects during the initial gap funding round was completed in partnership with the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Policy Navigation Group in Washington, D.C. The total Massachusetts investment of $2.5 million in energy efficiency projects will result in more than $40.2 million in public benefits over 15 years; yielding more than $31 million in energy savings for water facilities and over $9 million of public environmental benefits. The benefit-cost ratio means that $15 of public benefits will be achieved for every public dollar invested.

“Drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities are often among the largest energy users in a community,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, which operates the initiative under its Clean Energy Results Program. “Gap funding allows these utilities to deliver both immediate and long-term returns and efficiencies to municipal water ratepayers, and significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions from their plant operations.”

The additional $3 million in funding to be awarded in January will allow the program to expand and fill the financing gap for another 20 to 30 treatment facilities. The grants are being provided by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) from funds obtained as Alternative Compliance Payments made in lieu of compliance with the Class I and Class II Renewable Portfolio Standards and Alternative Portfolio Standards.

“Massachusetts is a national leader in energy efficiency and clean energy, saving all ratepayers billions of dollars on energy costs annually and reducing our overall emissions,” said DOER Commissioner Judith Judson. “Not only will these grants give water treatment facilities the funding they need to complete vital projects, but the resulting energy efficiency and renewable energy savings will allow the municipalities to further invest in their infrastructure going forward.”

“Investing in both innovative and traditional water technologies not only improves water quality, but increases energy efficiency and strengthens critical water infrastructure that is vital to our communities,” said Massachusetts Clean Energy Center CEO Stephen Pike. “We look forward to working with our partners at the Departments of Environmental Protection and Energy Resources to improve wastewater treatment facilities across the Commonwealth.”

“It was very helpful to receive grant funding to support our Solar PV Project, currently generating over 200,000 kWh per year, and our Variable Frequency Drive Project, anticipated to save over 1 million kWh per year, which will be online in early 2018,” said Managing Director Sam Corda of the Cambridge Water Department, which participated in the first round of gap funding. “Together, both projects will save our community $132,000 a year in energy costs.”

“This program is a great example of a state and local partnership that improves energy efficiency, protects the environment, and saves taxpayers money,” said Town Manager Ron San Angelo of Southbridge, another community that participated in the first round of gap funding. “The Governor and his team deserve great praise for moving this program forward.”

Municipalities and regional water and wastewater system operators can find the gap program Notice of Intent and information on how to apply for a grant here. Grant applications will be accepted starting on Nov. 6, and the grant filing deadline is 5 p.m. on Nov. 24, 2017.

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Imagine a Day Without Water

With all the division in our government, it is easy to forget there are some policy priorities that actually cut across party lines and geographical boundaries. Constituents may have different opinions on health care and tax reform, but they have a lot in common too. They get up in the morning and brush their teeth, use the bathroom, and make coffee. Many of them commute to school or work. They travel with their families on summer vacations and for holidays. They buy groceries and eat at restaurants.

When it comes to the essentials, we really do have more that unites us than divides us, which is why the majority of Americans want the federal government to prioritize investing in infrastructure. Earlier this year, voters were polled on what they wanted the federal government to focus on for a legislative agenda. By a double-digit margin, investment in infrastructure was the most important topic above any other issue. Two thirds of voters said so. And an astonishing 82 percent of Americans said water infrastructure needed to be a top priority. Eighty-two percent of Americans can’t even agree on what day of the week it is!

But if you think about it, water unites all of us. Of course people say it should be a priority. Can you even begin to imagine a day without water? It isn’t just your personal use of water – brushing your teeth, flushing your toilet, taking a shower – though those rituals are vital. Water is also essential to a functioning economy. What is a college campus or a hotel supposed to do if there is no water? They close. How can a restaurant, coffee shop, or brewery serve customers without water to cook, make coffee and beer, or wash the dishes? They can’t. And what about manufacturers – from pharmaceuticals to automobiles – that rely on water? They would grind to a halt too.

An economic study released by the Value of Water Campaign earlier this year found that a single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk. But investing in water infrastructure, unfortunately, has not been a priority for decades. The federal government’s investment has declined precipitously, leaving states, localities, and water utilities to make up the difference. Which means it is on localities to raise taxes, or for utilities to charge water rates that can pay for the massive infrastructure system of pumps, plants, and pipes. And the truth is, communities across the country have let those systems deteriorate for far too long.

We saw the tragedy in Flint, Michigan where thousands of residents were affected by tainted water supplies. Water systems in other communities are under threat too, and millions of Americans live in regions that completely lack water infrastructure.

There is no doubt about it – a day without water is a crisis. That is why we are joining with hundreds of groups across the country for Imagine a Day Without Water, because we want people to pay attention to our water systems. This country can do great things, and if 82 percent of Americans agree on something it must be important. Water is a public health issue, it is an economic issue. No community can thrive without water, and every American deserves a safe, reliable, accessible water supply. Let’s demand better, and make sure no American ever has to imagine a day without water again.

 

Disaster Resources from the EPA

The United States Environmental Protection Agency offers a variety of resources for both individual well owners and water operators when dealing with a water contamination event.

For Water Operators:

The Water Security Division of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water will conduct a webinar series including three one-hour events entitled “Responding to a Water Contamination Event.” The webinar series will inform drinking water and wastewater utilities of free tools and resources that can help prepare for, respond to, and recover from water contamination. These webinars include CEUs.

For more information and to register click here.

For Well Owners:

“What to Do With Your Private Well After a Flood.” The link provides steps and precautions for protecting your private well following a flood. It includes information on well and pump inspection, emergency disinfection of wells that have been flooded, and sampling and testing the well water.

What to Do With Your Private Well After a Flood

Qué Hacer Con Su Pozo Privado Después De Una Inundación

Other private well resources are available here: http://www.rcapsolutions.org/private-wells/

US EPA Hurricane Response Updates and Links for Recovery Information and Resources 

https://www.epa.gov/hurricane-response

RCAP Staff Finally Arrive Home in Puerto Rico

Pictured from left: Josefa Torres-Olivo, District Director of Puerto Rico & U.S.V.I.; Edwin Vazquez-Asencio, Sustainable Materials Management Specialist, Community Resources; and Juan Campos Collazo, Community Development Specialist, Community Resources.

RCAP Solutions staff members were finally able to return home to their families in Puerto Rico after being in the states since Monday, September 18, before Hurricane Maria hit later that week. The three Puerto Rico based staff members were in Massachusetts for an all staff meeting and were then stranded in Florida for ten days awaiting a return flight to the island.

The following email message went out just before getting on the plane:

“Just to let you know that we are leaving Florida in a couple of minutes. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers, it’s going to be an emotional day when we finally get together with our families. We will stay in contact if possible! A long journey ends and, a new one will start today. Please keep us in your prayers for strength and health so we can help others and raise from the adversity as we are good people and stronger than ever!”

Our thoughts go out to all those in Puerto Rico, the U.S.V.I. and the many others as they recover from the crippling effects of the recent hurricanes and other natural disasters. For almost 50 years, RCAP Solutions has been a vital resource to those in rural communities when they have critical need for assistance. We’re working with our staff and partner agencies in those areas to assess the most pressing short term and long-term needs. In the coming weeks, we’ll be outlining new initiatives that will provide funds and assistance to those in need as they work to rebuild their homes and communities.

Blossburg Borough, PA Case Study

By Seth Loht, GIS Specialist

Blossburg is a rural community located in northern Pennsylvania in Tioga County. Blossburg originated as a coal mining town in the early 1800’s and the industry thrived for nearly 150 years. Coal mining has given way to natural gas in recent decades and Blossburg has experienced several ‘boom and bust’ periods from this industry. The population of the borough was 1,538 in 2010, decreasing from 1,956 in 1960. The median household income level was $34,924 in 2010, more than $15,000 lower than the Pennsylvania state median.

Many rural communities in Pennsylvania face significant technical, managerial, and financial issues with their water and wastewater systems. Blossburg Borough is fortunate to have very competent leadership and a capable staff, but often faces issues with aging infrastructure and lack of funding. Additionally, the water and sewer authority needed an updated asset inventory and updated water and wastewater system maps.

In 2014, USDA Rural Community Development Initiative awarded RCAP Solutions a grant to provide GPS and GIS mapping services to a number of rural low income communities including Blossburg. The borough manager and public works department have been very involved and supportive of every aspect of the RCAP project. Over a four week period in spring 2016, RCAP and the Blossburg Borough authority staff completed a comprehensive GPS inventory of the water and wastewater system. This data was then transferred to a GIS mapping system. RCAP Solutions also partnered with the Tioga County GIS Department and Tioga County Source Water Protection Coalition to create an online water and wastewater web application to view the authority’s data.

This project allowed Blossburg Borough to have an accurate, detailed inventory of their assets, as well as access to an online GIS platform to view their system maps. This will help them immensely with the effectiveness of their day to day operational work and will also assist with long term planning. Additionally, RCAP Solutions was able to network and establish important relationships with several Tioga County departments and has become very involved with the Source Water Protection Coalition.

Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) – A small but important funding source

RCDI is specifically targeted to training and technical assistance for rural low-income communities and affords them opportunities they might not otherwise get access to.  The community must be 80% below the state non-metropolitan median household income and below a maximum population threshold of 50,000.  The communities that have participated in utility mapping and managerial and financial capacity building with RCAP Solutions with this funding would not have been able to afford these valuable services otherwise. 

Many of the communities that RCAP Solutions works with have no maps of their system at all or very outdated and/or incomplete maps.  Full system mapping enables them to: respond quickly to minimize threatened or actual interruption of service; facilitate asset tracking and repair and replacement planning and implementation; provide documentation for system upgrade engineering reports and funding applications; and support emergency planning and response activities.  In the northeast U.S., GPS locating of assets is critical in the winter months when valuable time can be lost finding and uncovering system components. The maps are created in both digital and physical formats for the community and they receive training on how to access and manipulate the digital maps for optimal system operation and management.

Under the RCDI program, RCAP Solutions also conducts additional training to benefit lower-income communities including managerial capacity building. In New York RCDI has also helped RCAP to facilitate training of community Code Enforcement Officers and other residential wastewater professionals on topics related to onsite wastewater treatment systems, including fundamentals, inspection procedures, and technology alternatives.

RCDI is very broad in what it allows a Technical Assistance Provider to do to support low income communities and really concentrates on a number of aspects of a community’s needs to foster self-sufficiency and overall community development.

Click on the map below to expand and see locations of over 30 current and past RCDI projects in New York, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico.

 

Education is key to implement behavior change

By Edwin Edwin Vazquez-Asencio, Sustainable Materials Management Specialist at RCAP Solutions Puerto Rico

Capitanejo, Guaraguao, Guayabal and Rio Cañas Arriba are rural barrios in Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico (PR) which are served through a USDA-RD Solid Waste Grant.

Since the fall of 2014 RCAP Solutions has provided technical assistance to overcome one of the most noticeable problems in these communities: the improper disposal of solid waste. Even when the municipality provides services such as weekly trash collection and monthly or bimonthly debris removal, many community residents do not participate in these initiatives to reduce solid waste generation. This demonstrates a current lack of interest or knowledge about how to solve their mounting solid waste disposal situation. The most probable reason for this behavior is a lack of environmental education and a low level of awareness of both the problem and its short and long term consequences.

Limited resources and an emphasis on funding and support in urban areas make it challenging to educate and assist rural residents. Important government supported initiatives like the Single Use Plastics Bag Ban (PR ACT 247), which went into effect on December 31, 2016 are very important because they pique the interest of not just urban but also rural communities.

RCAP has conducted eight workshops this year about the reasoning behind the passage of the “Plastic Bag Ban” in rural community schools to educate both students and teachers. They have learned the importance of this act and how they will benefit in terms of their health and the improvement of the surrounding natural environment.

The main goal of the initiative and RCAPs work around Solid Waste in PR is to initiate a process in which reduce, reuse and recycle can be a part of the local culture. A change in adult behavior can be promoted through the education of their children concerning solid waste problems and simple, affordable solutions. The kids have and will continue to assist RCAP in its efforts to modify the community’s learned bad habits and transform them into new positive ones.

“It’s been an excellent experience for our students to participate in the RCAP Solutions Workshops. The ways in which the concepts were taught were great: age appropriate for our students, very concise, using appropriate vocabulary, and captivating students’ attention. All teachers have expressed positive feedback. Our students are putting into practice what they learned in the workshop…and we hope to receive more workshops about recycling soon.”

Prof. Juan Cesari Delgado, Director of Capitenejo School.

CUPSS Testimonial

“I took over the sterling water department in 2009. At that time there were no programs, records or capital plans. Never being in charge of a department before this one, it was a monumental task to get it back in compliance. One month after taking over we lost the only trained employee on staff. We had a mile of main that needed replacement right away, all tanks needed cleaning, two tanks needed complete rehab, and wells needed redevelopment. I had to prioritize projects, go for funds and train new people while juggling the department and starting maintenance programs. I am a hands on person and paperwork is my weakest link. Along came Jim Starbard, RCAP Solutions and CUPSS*. Jim helped me install and enter custom tasks, assets, risk evaluation, costs, even log customer complaints. I was able to easily update CUPSS tasks daily. From CUPSS, I can print reports to show our board risk evaluation costs and even project for future maintenance. I can print daily worksheets for new or old employees to help walk them through routine tasks, a great training tool. CUPSS is easy for anyone to operate and I have found no shortcomings. It is a one stop tool for managing a water department, asset management, maintenance and financial forecasts. I could not be without it.”

Paul Lyons, Assistant Superintendent

Sterling Water Department

*Check Up Program for Small Systems (CUPSS) is a free, easy-to-use, asset management tool for small drinking water and wastewater utilities. CUPSS provides a simple, comprehensive approach based on EPA’s highly successful Simple Tools for Effective Performance (STEP) Guide series. For more information visit: https://www.epa.gov/dwcapacity/information-check-program-small-systems-cupss-asset-management-tool

Andrews Farm Water Company

Andrews Farm Water Company – Technical Assistance Re-Building a Water System

By James P. Starbard, Massachusetts State Lead

Located in the Northeast Massachusetts Town of Boxford and developed in 1994, the Andrews Farm residential community was the first community built under Massachusetts’s Chapter 40B law. This law requires that a minimum of 25% of the community has an income at 80% or below the area median income.

On the request of USDA’s Rural Development Office (RD), RCAP Solutions met with the community and worked with them to develop an asset management plan using US EPA’s Check up Program for Small Systems (CUPSS). With that asset and capital improvement information and then calculating the depreciation of assets, RCAP performed a system value evaluation which has been accepted by RD to facilitate a future sale of the system.

At this point in the project the focus shifted from assisting the water system through a sale to an emergency situation when on June 17, 2016 at 5:30 pm the community’s 3,000-gallon pneumatic drinking water storage tank exploded. The explosion destroyed much of the water system’s infrastructure including its pump house, and the incident left 53 homes without running water. I was at home watching the local evening news that night and saw the breaking news come in live.

Fox 25 Boston news reported that Brandon Shaw, a visitor to the community that day said: “All of a sudden there was a huge bang, the ground shook, and I heard all the glass shattering…I was walking thirty feet away; if I was a couple minutes later I would’ve been right in front of it.” The contract water operator for the community had been in the pump house less than an hour prior to the explosion but thankfully he has already left. No one else was injured.

Following a joint investigation by the Massachusetts State Fire Marshall Office and Boxford Fire Department, it was determined the cause to be a failure of the tank due to an increase in water or air pressure. “The pressure caused the tank to rupture, which sent a tremendous amount of energy that caused the damage,” reported the Massachusetts State Fire Marshall Office. “The building has been deemed a loss and is off limits to unauthorized persons.”

Fortunately, Andrews Farm had an emergency connection with a neighboring community that was utilized within 20 hours of the incident, restoring water flow to the residents. A few days later, after water sampling proved the water was potable, it was cleared for eating and drinking. The quick response was a testament to the need to have an updated emergency response plan which is exercised and updated frequently as well as a backup water supply within or outside of your own system

The incident was so dramatic it resulted in the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (MASS DEP) Drinking Water Program to remind all water systems in the Commonwealth to inspect their storage tanks every 5 years, as required, especially pneumatic storage tanks. In that memo MASSDEP reminded systems to follow manufacturer guidance on useful life as structural integrity may be compromised after that. They also mentioned that a very similar incident occurred in June 2015 in North Stonington, CT.

An RCAP Solutions Specialist immediately was in contact with the owner to provide technical assistance and guidance to get the process of repairing the system started, which included many obstacles that had to be overcome during the process. An immediate concern was finding $100,000 to re-build the water system and to winterize the emergency connection which at the time was located above ground. The insurance company for the water system concluded that the cause of the damage to the water system was excluded from coverage, a conclusion the water system did and continues to dispute as they had just had their storage tanks inspected 11 months prior to the incident by a reputable outside contractor who did not note any deficiencies.

The water system had $1.6 million in coverage prior to the incident but in total they only received $128,000 in insurance funds to winterize the emergency connection and rebuild the pump house. This led the water company to seek out other sources of funding to re-build the system.

The water company is privately owned and prior to the emergency was preparing to be sold to prospective buyers including the neighborhood residents themselves if a cooperative was formed. Being a privately owned for-profit water company, the funding options were limited but many were explored with RCAP Solutions’ assistance including a submitted application to our RCAP network partner organization, Communities Unlimited (CU). They have a Revolving Loan Fund, but their loan terms could not be met by the water company, so the system ownership ended up supplying the needed capital to re-build the system which in total was approximately $240,000 above and beyond the emergency connection winterization costs.

RCAP Solutions’ assistance also included technical assistance throughout the construction planning and design stage. The usual process of selecting an engineer, applying for public agency permits etc. were accomplished but additional unusual obstacles were met throughout.

These obstacles included an order from the neighboring water system which acting as the emergency water source, for Andrew’s Farm to re-build their system and be self-sufficient by July 1, 2017 as they were no longer going to provide water to the water company after that date or serve as an emergency back-up supply again. This greatly increased the urgency to re-build as soon as possible and brought about the need for extra water storage for emergencies since this emergency connection would no longer be viable. This decision was ultimately reversed by the neighboring water system’s board and today they continue to serve as an emergency backup source to Andrew’s Farm.

Another obstacle was the FEMA flood maps. The maps showed the original pump house which had been destroyed as being in a flood plain, but this seemed to be an error because areas downgrade from the pump house even were not in a flood plain. This limited the water company’s ability to build beyond the original footprint under local building codes. With innovative design by the water company’s engineer, this obstacle was successfully overcome.

A third obstacle was the water company’s ability to raise user rates to pay for repairs to the water system. Rate setting for this community is regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) and a public hearing was required before DPU’s Board for this request. A decision on the rate adjustment request of the water company is still forthcoming from the DPU and should have a final decision in the fall.

Despite the obstacles faced, on June 21, 2017, exactly 1 year and 4 days from the tank rupture that destroyed the pump house, the newly re-built pump house, storage and control center was put online and features some significant upgrades and technological advances.

The new control panel is the newest electronic technology allowing for remote Wi-Fi connect-ability and control by the system’s owner and contract operator. Also, the building’s side walls were made to be removable to allow storage tank replacement without significant structural alteration.

The extremely quick re-building effort was first and foremost the result of a tenacious owner of the water company, Doug Conn, whose background as a builder served invaluable in the effort. Also, the work of the water company’s engineer and MASS DEP’s involvement and prioritization ensured the project could move along expeditiously.

Mr. Conn was nice enough to write a letter of support and thanks to us for the assistance RCAP Solutions provided during the recovery stating RCAP Solutions “had always given great advice and been attentive to [their] requests” and that RCAP Solutions “had a lot to do with our success”.

RCAP Solutions continues to assist the water company to prepare for an ultimate sale and look for entities that may want to buy the water system including the citizens of the neighborhood. RCAP Solutions has spoken with community members and has offered our technical assistance to them if they wish to pursue the creation of a cooperative to take ownership of the water system.