This March, RCAP Solutions and the Rural Community Assistance Partnership invite you to attend a Regional Collaboration Summit. This summit will engage many stakeholders, including elected and appointed local government officials, state and federal agency staff, and others that play a role in water and wastewater utility management.
Worcester, MA – RCAP Solutions has completed a project which assisted public water systems in the towns of Ashburnham, Hardwick, Wheelwright, Gilbertville, and Lancaster increase their capacity to plan, operate and manage existing drinking water facilities to ensure their efficiency, affordability, dependability and sustainability. By providing technical, managerial and financial needs assessments, deficiencies were identified, priorities selected, and issues were addressed. As a result, the long-term effects of the project will positively impact over 17,300 residents in small, rural communities and ensure their access to safe and affordable water.
“We are thrilled with the successful outcome of this project which was funded by The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts,” stated Karen A. Koller, President & CEO of RCAP Solutions. “Rural America is right here in our backyard, represented by many communities in Central Massachusetts. We are pleased to be able to fulfill our mission and meet the essential needs of small towns by providing this valuable technical assistance so that community water systems can provide safe, clean drinking water to their residents.”
“Especially because of the extreme drought conditions the region has been experiencing, our awareness of the need for a sufficient supply of clean water is heightened,” said Dr. Jan Yost, President of the Foundation. “We thank RCAP Solutions for helping to assure the residents in these rural communities of their water supply now and into the future.”
Asset management plans were created and implemented in all five of the drinking water systems, offering countless system efficiencies and ultimately enabling the participating communities to be proactive instead of reactive in their decision making processes. These plans help systems identify all of their assets, assess worth, expected lifetime remaining, replacement costs and ultimately look at financial planning to ensure their budgets have room for future needed improvements. Other outcomes which resulted from the project included regionalization studies focused on sharing services to create economies of scale and keep down costs, assistance with federal compliance issues, and uncovering new funding opportunities and potential revenue sources.
The project capstone was a day-long regional asset management training for small water system owners and operators which provided six training contact hours to 26 attendees including 21 operators representing 17 small community systems. Asset Management may become a MA water system requirement so these three communities and the additional systems that attended the training will be ahead of the game if a statewide mandate is eventually in place.
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 www.rcapsolutions.org.
About The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts
The Foundation was established in 1999 with the proceeds from the sale of Central Massachusetts Health Care, Inc., a physician-initiated, not-for-profit HMO. The Foundation currently has assets of approximately $68 million and has awarded grants totaling approximately $36 million to improve the health of those who live or work in Central Massachusetts. For further information about the Foundation’s grant programs, please visit The Health Foundation’s website at www.hfcm.org.
Congratulations to Edwin Vazquez-Asencio, Sustainable Materials Management Specialist at RCAP Solutions, who received the Outstanding Rookie Award at the RCAP National conference.
This award is given to a staff member who has been with the RCAP program for two years or less, but who has made contributions over and above what would be expected for a new staff member. Nominees for this award have adapted to their jobs quickly, have made positive suggestions and contributions for program improvement, and shown outstanding initiative.
Edwin was hired in October 2014 to implement and lead RCAP Solutions Solid Waste Grant activities under National RCAP’s USDA Solid Waste Grant. Prior to joining RCAP, Edwin had over 10 years of community education and training experience. Edwin has B.B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from University of Puerto Rico and an MBA from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. With Edwin’s background in community outreach, education, and organizing, his education in biology, and his passion for social and environmental justice, and to work directly with communities to address these issues, the selection committee felt that given the extreme degree of the solid waste issues in Puerto Rico, we needed an activist, not a technician. This instinct paid off with dividends as Edwin has been working to organize community clean ups of illegal dump sites and to develop municipal and school-based recycling programs as well as community education and outreach activities.
In Edwin’s two short years at RCAP Solutions, he has been solely responsible for conducting two major community clean up events.
The first in January, 2015 took place in Manzanillo, a small, poor, rural barrio located on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, where the Jacaguas River meets the Caribbean Sea. In total, over 400 volunteers took part in the event, resulting in 15 truckloads of trash – approximately 100 cubic yards – hauled away. This event was conducted only 4 months after Edwin’s hire.
The second, in February, 2016 took place at the Guayabal Lake, located between the barrios Guayabal in Juana Diaz and Romero in Villalba. It is one of the most important water reservoirs for agriculture activities from Juana Diaz to Salinas, a large region of four to five towns. It has been used since 1914; providing enough water to develop the sugar cane industry in the region during the most intense period of development in Puerto Rico. Around 300 volunteers and government employees worked hand in hand to recover the lake from the solid waste under the lead of RCAP team. As a result, over 121,704.5 lbs. ≈ 60.85 tons of solid waste was removed from the lake.
These events took many months of planning to coordinate. Edwin’s initiative provided a wake-up call and a real movement in the Manzanilla Community. After the success of the Manzanilla clean-up, many communities and agencies turned their attention to RCAP to find solutions in many areas affected by solid waste. The coordination between federal, state, and municipal agencies and the communities demonstrates the need to establish a more collaborative frame of work to address this situation.
“This is exactly what we need, getting people to work together to protect the environment for future generations,” stated Adrian Alicea, a Park Ranger for the PR Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA), when the Manzanilla report was presented.
Between his start date in October 2014 and January 2015, Edwin planned, organized, conducted trainings, and implemented a volunteer community clean up event in a low income rural coastal community. The event was a HUGE success. Over 400 people showed up including local officials, officials from Puerto Rico’s Agricultural Extension Agency, Department of Natural Resources, the state police, the University of Puerto Rico, numerous local Boy Scout troops, church, and school service-learning groups. NOT TO MENTION the buy-in of the residents of the community itself. It was so successful that it was reported on by local Puerto Rico radio and television outlets, and served as a cover story for Rural Matters and a National RCAP special video project under production.
In March 2015 – just less than 6 months of his hire – Edwin, provided training, and implemented an event that involved engaging the local schools, getting buy in, training teachers, and planned, organized and ran an event where children were tasked with finding creative uses for items from illegal dumps and litter.
This lead the process to the point where school children are growing seedlings in containers that were or would have entered the waste stream to be used to landscape abandoned areas where the illegal dumping was occurring and an “adopt an island” approach was launched to find local businesses to plant and maintain these areas.
Edwin intrinsically knows that solving problems is one thing and that education, training, and capacity development is quite
another. He is all about the local empowerment of low income communities and is not satisfied simply achieving his required work load or stay within the confines of his job description. He is constantly coming up with ideas of how we can better serve the communities he is working with.
Edwin independently developed and delivered training materials that fit the context of the solid waste issues in Puerto Rico and has been assisting on our Puerto Rico Department of Health Sanitary Survey contract.
Edwin has been assisting and in some cases leading resource development efforts to expand our work in Puerto Rico. As a Solid Waste Management Specialist he has developed a collaborative strategic approach with the Government and the communities to deal with the proliferation of illegal dumping sites and the effects of these in the public health. Working as liaison between different agencies including The Natural Resources Department, The PR Solid Waste Authority, the Department of Education, the PR Police, the University of Puerto Rico and other private universities and the municipalities of Juana Díaz and Villaba, he is creating programs and initiatives to create awareness of the problem using cleanups activities to educate and promote long term solutions.
The inclusive approach is considering a multilevel educational effort to address the necessities of students, professionals and government employees. His design is based in the sustainability of the initiatives considering; reduce, reuse and recycling of the materials that need to be diverted from the landfills. He is the Leader of the Educational Committee of the PR Recycling Partnership for the south of PR; an initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency Region II.
He has been invited to important radio programs in PR such as “La Gente Está Hablando” and “Es con usted la ciestión” on WPAB Radio Station and “La Alternativa Holística” on Radio Casa Pueblo 1020 AM; radio programs related to Social, Political and Environmental Issues affecting the society. In total Mr. Vazquez-Asencio have more than 25 years of experience in administration, outreach and community education, with a strong background in cultural and environmental management.
In addition to this, Edwin has been involved in several volunteer and community projects including:
- Assisted Dr. Norma Piazza from UPR, Ponce in the study needs for the Federal Department of Education, Title V on the proposal for the development of Spanish study centers using technology
- Work in the development process of a proposal for Department of Education by the Ponce Art Museum
- Oriented small farmer from Yauco, Puerto Rico about disposal of vegetal material by using the composting process
- Founder and developer of literary movement La Peña Literaria
- Member of Centro Cultural Carmen Solá de Pereira
What folks had to say about Edwin and his contributions:
“Edwin Vazquez-Asencio works with a passion, a virtue that not all Technical Assistance Providers possess. As a small fish in an immense tank of water, Edwin has to dive through the solid waste program with less experience than others with years of experience. He has gone above and beyond, accomplishing more than the tasks assigned under the Solid Waste program and also provides assistance with the drinking water program as well. Edwin has what’s needed to move the Solid Waste program ahead in Puerto Rico; and that is a great heart and the passion to serve people. He has taken giant steps towards positioning RCAP Solutions’ Solid Waste Program in Puerto Rico on the radar, such that local and federal Solid Waste agencies are noticing the work that he has done in such a short time. The Puerto Rico team is very proud to have Edwin on board as someone who assists rural and low income communities and those who live there.” Eng. Josefa Torres, District III Director Puerto Rico & U.S.V.I.
“Edwin is an extraordinary human being that puts the many qualities and skills he owns at the service of the rural communities in need. He has a great capacity for understanding the work along with the communities in helping them to effectively address their problems and improving not only their physical facilities, but also improving their self-esteem. He is an incredibly valuable team member for the RCAP Solutions staff in Puerto Rico.” Eng. Juan Campos, Community Development Specialist, RCAP Solutions Puerto Rico
Comments from volunteers involved in the Manzanillo and Guayabal Lake Clean Up Projects:
“Manzanillo’s experience was an example of solidarity and empowerment, a reflection on what each one can do for the collective, and a successful learning experience for both the local community and the volunteers involved.” Dr. Sandra Moyá of the University of Puerto Rico’s Department of Biology
“This is exactly what we need, getting people to work together to protect the environment for future generations. This is part of our legacy for them and I’m glad we are a part of it. We patrol the area, try to educate people and prevent illegal dumping, but we need help. We really appreciate RCAP’s initiative to organize and coordinate this event. We need to continue this effort in other places.” Adrian Alicea, a Park Ranger for the Department of Natural Resources
“I have a three year old girl and an eight year old son. When they see people like RCAP Solutions working with us, they will grow up knowing that if we work together, we can get the help we need to have a better life in our community. My son helped clean the river with his dad. It will help the next generation think differently about the community and the environment.” Jayline Olivencia, Manzanillo resident
“With this effort, we can say, today we made the change! RCAP Solutions was a helping hand, uniting people and creating an understanding about the importance of protecting and maintaining a clean environment, which will lead to a better quality of life and a better future.” Keila Rivera, an environmental science graduate student from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, who assisted with the workshops and researched information about the garbage burning habits promoted in Manzanillo Community.
“It was an answered prayer, we were looking for the know how to deal with this situation” Eng. Ruben Estremera, Principal Supervisor Engineer, PREPA South Coast-Juana Diaz Irrigation System.
Small System Operator Training: Achieve and Maintain Compliance with the SDWA
October 6 –Grappone Conference Center, 70 Constitution Ave., Concord, NH
8:00a.m. – 3:30p.m.
Your utility faces day-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 – Approved by the NH DES Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau. AWWA is the entity providing the TCHs for this event. Individual registration is required through NEWWA.
Audience: Operators, managers, or governing body of a small system.
What topics will be covered at the workshop?
7:30-8:00a.m. – Registration
8:00-8:15a.m. – SDWA Workshop Introduction and Pre-Test
8:15-10:15a.m. – Regulatory Overview
10:15-10:30a.m. – Break
10:30-11:15a.m. – Distribution Water Quality
11:15a.m.-12:00p.m. – Coliform Sample Collection
12:00-1:00p.m. – Lunch
1:00-1:45p.m. – Main Breaks & Cross Connections
1:45-3:00p.m. – Troubleshooting, Disinfection, & Restoration of Service
3:00-3:15p.m. – Post-Test
3:15-3:30p.m. – Wrap up and Adjourn
**NOTE: As this is a free, grant-funded workshop, food cannot be provided. Please come prepared.**
Emil Coviello is a water compliance specialist with RCAP Solutions, Inc., for the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, where he is also a certified operator. Emil has 40 years of combined experience in the installation and repair of water, sewer, and drainage systems; operating water treatment plants and distribution systems; and overseeing and performing backflow and cross connection prevention activities. He holds a B.S. in Engineering Technologies from Central CT State University in New Britain, CT.
Daniel Crosby is laboratory director for EAI Analytical Labs. He attained and has maintained the laboratory’s NELAC accreditation for microbiologic and inorganic analyses, and developed and implements the quality assurance and control plan while overseeing the financial, customer service, and marketing aspects of the business. He currently splits his time working with EAI and acting as a radiological decontamination advisor and chemist with Environmental Alternatives, Inc. He holds B.S. degrees in chemistry and geology from Keene State College, a Grade 1 treatment and distribution license in NH, and a Class 3 treatment and distribution license in VT.
Wade Pelham is a member of the Engineering & Survey Section at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ Drinking Water & Groundwater Bureau. He holds a B.S. in Environmental & Resource Economics from the University of New Hampshire, is a certified Grade 2 Treatment and Distribution operator in NH, and a NEWWA-certified backflow prevention device inspector/tester.
Amy Rousseau provides engineering and survey technical assistance with the NHDES DWGB. She started with the bureau in 2014 to provide outreach and assistance to seasonal systems as the Revised Total Coliform Rule came into effect and continues this work with the addition of design review, treatment approval, and the occasional survey. Amy’s background is in environmental engineering with a Master’s degree from Clarkson University. Prior to the DWGB, Amy worked in private consulting, primarily in site remediation of various types, including extensive Superfund work.
Robert Stewart, Executive Director for the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) presented three RCAP Solutions Employees with prestigious national awards during the RCAP annual conference last year in Madison, Wisconsin.
Sukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training was inducted into the RCAP National Hall of Fame. Inductees into the Hall of Fame are recognized for having made significant positive contributions to RCAP in the course of their work over the years as a long-term Technical Assistance Provider or Regional coordinator who works directly with communities. Sukh has been with RCAP Solutions for 21 years and brings unique expertise, training and skills useful in a variety of leadership, training and community settings. She has primary oversight ensuring that all training deliverables/funder requirements are met.
Josefa Torres-Olivo, District Director for Puerto Rico was the recipient of The Bill French Bridge-builder Award, given to an RCAP staff member who has been successful in building their state RCAP program, whether in reputation and credibility or in funding. She has advanced her state program to a higher level of operations through new and enhanced relationships with funding and primacy agencies or other partners, new services offered to communities, and new grants or contracts obtained. This award is named for Bill French, one of RCAP’s founding members who leveraged the RCAP program to build a strong and well-respected agency, and is given to a recipient who has successfully advanced their state program to a higher level of operations. Josefa was recognized for enabling her program to cross over barriers, leading the program along a road to realize its vision, and bringing the plan to fruition. Josefa has been with RCAP Solutions for 20 years, providing technical assistance on water and wastewater issues; assisting in the planning, developing, and organization of rural communities; providing expertise for the implementation of community source water protection and ground water improvement for rural low-income water systems; and has worked cooperatively with local, state, and federal government agencies to enhance community systems compliance.
Art Astarita, 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.
Scott Mueller, Chief Rural Affairs Officer & Director of Community Resources, RCAP Solutions
Perhaps one of the most important activities and investments a community can make is providing safe, efficient, and sustainable infrastructure for its residents. In fact for many rural communities a water system or wastewater system can be the single most expensive investment it makes for itself. Along with these also are affordable housing, electricity, safe transportation routes, and telecommunication opportunities. In this day and age many communities are looking at all of these as basics for community life and economic betterment. Without water and wastewater disposal two of the critical elements necessary for a safe and clean community life needed to prosper are missing and due for some challenges. Can you imagine living in a location where there was no drinking water?
All these activities require proper planning and a critical understanding of the system to insure that they not only operate correctly but also provide the intended opportunity and or sustainment of a healthy environment. With the availability of water in many of our states coming into question those that do have access to clean water it is becoming more and more, perhaps, one of the most important resources a community has. And they are looking to protect it along with finding ways to sustain its availability and quality.
RCAP Solutions has been a long standing leader towards this end in providing such counseling and technical assistance to rural communities across our region which covers 9 north eastern states and 2 territories [ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, RI, NY, PA, NJ Puerto Rico and USVI]. Our experienced staff which is located in each state focuses on assisting those small rural communities in need trying to promote their locality and provide a safe environment to live. Whether it be working with a specific community issue or developing a new infrastructure system they have the experience to assist you with your effort. Most always these are challenging efforts which cost significant dollars and there is an ever growing maze of regulation and process that needs to be navigated. We can help.
This year we are pleased to say we have funding available to assist eligible communities. Whether it be direct technical assistance, or training provided to you or your project team, we would enjoy hearing from you and seeing how we may assist. In those cases where communities are not eligible for assistance under our federal and state funding guidelines, we also offer an affordable approach to gaining this assistance and are more than happy to discuss your needs.
We wish every community the best in the upcoming year and to find out more about our services please contact Scott Mueller, Director of Community Services and Chief Rural affairs officer at 315-482-2756 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A financial analysis of all five water utilities shows that perhaps jointly, they could accomplish the needed capital improvements. The revenue expenses are shown in the following graphics and tables indicates that for the two year period of 2012 and 2013 there was a collective $1.7M surplus.
After individually funding the necessary utility reserves: emergency (~25% of operation expenses), debt service along with replacement of short-term assets (asset with <15 year life expectancy), a portion of a utility’s surplus could be collective pooled for capital improvements to create an economy of scale. Of course, what certain projects are good of collaboration versus unique upgrades specific to an particular utility must be crafted.
This collaboration aids the water utilities’ sustainability and helps the economic development of the River Valley Region. Improved infrastructure attracts businesses. Using the existing framework of the WMEDC-RVR can help streamline planning amongst utilities, towns and regional groups. Given the OPM’s declining population projections and one pivotal declining employer in the RVR, it is RCAP’s opinion that the utilities and towns needs to 1) prepare for a lower revenue stream, 2) prudently accomplish as much infrastructure repair/replacement as possible, 3) collaborate in purchases and conducting infrastructure projects and 4) consider consolidating administrative operations.
As governmental subsidies decline, it is increasingly becoming apparent that small rural utilities must develop a holistic business plan which focusses on asset management in order to operate the system in a sustainable manner. It is the long-term asset reserve that is financially critical and challenging. However, it seems that individually, no one system can save reserves to significantly “buy down debt” of these expensive capital improvements while keeping customer rates reasonable. If major employers decline, a ripple effect occurs to the revenue available; expenses increase for the ever declining population base. Collectively working together could be a solution.
Ari Newmann, Director of Policy Development and Applied Research, RCAP
Each year, a contingent of RCAP staff and rural community leaders come to Washington, DC for the RCAP network’s annual Legislative Fly-In. The purpose of the fly-in is to educate members of Congress and the administration about the services that RCAP performs for their rural constituents and remind them of the importance of federal rural development programs. Despite a late-season snowfall that forced the closure of most of the federal government, this March we were able to meet with the offices of more than 100 legislators as well as Congressional committees and federal agencies.
The event helped build support on the Hill for rural development programs and for technical assistance for those programs. In the weeks following the fly-in, RCAP circulated a letter in the Senate supporting funding for technical assistance for rural water and wastewater systems that was signed by a bipartisan group of 12 Senators. A similar letter in the House of Representatives garnered 42 signatures from across the political spectrum. As Congress contemplates funding bills later this year, this strong show of support across party lines will help to ensure that funding for these programs continues.
Throughout the week members of Congress and their staff expressed the desire to hear more about how RCAP and federal community development programs are helping their constituents. In order to maintain support for these programs, it is imperative legislators continue to hear how they benefit the people they represent, and Congressional recesses provide a great opportunity to do so. Every few weeks, Congress is out of session so they can return to their home states and spend time visiting and meeting with constituents. These breaks are a great time to reach out to your Senators and Representative to try to schedule them for a visit to your community. Groundbreakings and ribbon-cutting ceremonies provide great opportunities for photo-ops which members of Congress love, and which give them an opportunity to learn about the great work that is being done throughout rural America as a result of the federal programs that they oversee. Even if you’re not planning a big event, your legislators may be interested to see the improvements your community has made as a result of the availability of water or wastewater service. Showing them the value of these programs to rural America will help keep our communities front of mind when they return to Washington and will generate support for our projects and programs.
Mia McDonald, Technical Assistance Provider, RCAP Solutions
The Glendale Water Association is a small, private water supplier that consists of one well, one pump and thirty residential service connections in a small neighborhood in Glendale, a village of Burrillville, Rhode Island. The homes and water system were originally constructed in the 1950s by the U.S. Army as housing for the military families. It is now managed by the Association, whose members are composed of resident volunteers. A recent change in board membership left the remaining and new members to inherit a failing well pump, broken backup generator and a current rate structure that cannot support the needs of the system. A crash course in sampling protocol got the system the attention of the Rhode Island Department of Public Health, who directed RCAP Solutions to assist the system.
RCAP Solutions Specialists are working to assist the system to achieve compliance and get connected with the resources to successfully manage the system going forward. They have facilitated multiple meetings between the board, primacy and residents to repair the well pump and obtain an evaluation of the current status and future needs of the system. RCAP Specialists will continue to work with the Glendale Water Association in planning for asset management and with a restructure of the rate system.
Due to the ongoing relationship between RCAP Solutions and the Glendale Water Association, RCAP was able to assist when a time-intensive waiver application came due. As volunteer board members have full lives outside of their board responsibilities, it became apparent they did not have the time or resources to complete the required Synthetic Organic Chemicals Waiver Application required by the Rhode Island Department of Public Health. The Association was already actively working with an RCAP Solutions Drinking Water Specialist, who was able to spend the time needed to map land uses and conduct landowner outreach to determine which chemicals are in use in Glendale’s wellhead protection area. RCAP Solutions is continuing to work with the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management to finalize the sampling requirements for the next three years for the system. Once determined, these requirements and their associated costs shall be incorporate into the new rate structure. If the waiver is not completed, water systems are then required to complete the full range of sampling with no waiver, in some cases up to $625 per quarter for small systems.
It is the long term relationship with these rural water systems that allows RCAP Solutions Community Resource team members accomplish long term, sustainable results.
RCAP Network Releases High Quality Drinking Water Operator Training Materials that are Well Received by Operators throughout Northeastern United States
Sukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training, RCAP Solutions
Just under seventeen months ago, the RCAP Network was fortunate to be funded through the US EPA to develop materials and train small systems on compliance related topics including content that supported Operator Continuing Education credits.
After a systematic review of the ABC (Association of Boards of Certification) Drinking Water Treatment Need-to-Know criteria, it became evident that RCAP curricula would focus on Distribution System Water Quality Management for small systems as well as basic math and chemistry for water operators. This goal was set at the National RCAP level for all the regional RCAPs to follow.
We will highlight some of the goals and content of the curricula and explain how it is organized to engage operator attendees. We will also discuss the extensive Training Contact Hours (TCH) application process and results we have achieved as well as highlighting some upcoming trainings.
The RCAP Distribution Water Quality Management Training Module is designed as a one-day, 8 hour class with small group activities and RCAP videos that emphasize chlorine residual management and distribution system best practices. The modules that make up the 8 hour course highlight the following: distribution as a barrier to protect public health, regulations and factors that impact water quality in the distribution system, distribution system components and monitoring practices, how to take a good bacteria sample, chlorine residual management, flushing and pressure management. Expected learning outcomes for attendees are that they will be able to: 1) Describe the importance of maintaining the distribution system as a barrier to protect public health, 2) Monitor chlorine residual and recognize problems that may lead to low residuals, 3) Manage water age in the distribution system and 4) Recognize issues that may lead to water quality degradation in the distribution system. The 8 hour course features pre-and post-assessment key concepts which are a hallmark of the RCAP Curriculum Design. RCAP Solutions has applied for and received course approval for 8.0 TCH credits for water operators in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. We are securing course approval with the other state primacies in our region as well. We have successfully completed two trainings for over 25 operators in Massachusetts and New Hampshire with upcoming events scheduled in October in New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
Concepts covered in the Basics of Operator Math module include setting up word problems, working with fractions, conversion factors for common units in water treatment and distribution, percentages, area and volume, manipulating an equation to solve for the desired parameter, chemical dosing problems, and using the ABC Formula/Conversion Table or state-specific formula sheet. While the module’s target audience is water operators, most concepts are also applicable to wastewater operations. RCAP Solutions has applied for and received course approval for 4.0 TCH credits for The Basics of Operator Math in both water and wastewater in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and again we are working with a number of other primacies in our network to secure this accreditation. In the meantime, RCAP Solutions staff has successfully trained over 100 operators on this content in New York and Maine. RCAP Solutions has upcoming trainings in this topic scheduled in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New Hampshire for October and November.
Chemistry is a very wide ranging subject that can take many years of study. The Chemistry for Water Operators curriculum covers some very basic concepts in chemistry such as how to use the periodic table, the chemistry of water, and how to calculate dosage. These are basic skills that can assist students in understanding more advanced classes on water treatment chemistry. The target audience is small system water operators that have had some basic chemistry instruction in high school or college.
The training module is designed to fit in a half-day session and can be combined with other modules at the discretion of the trainer. As a result of this training, participants will be able to: use the periodic table, understand the basic chemical properties of water, and be able to calculate concentrations in a solution. The course will accomplish this through modules that cover basic chemistry principles from the importance of chemistry for operators to the chemistry of water as well as concentrations and various calculations. RCAP Solutions has received course approval for 3.5 TCH credits in both water and
Wastewater in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. RCAP Solutions has upcoming trainings on this topic scheduled in New Jersey in October and New Hampshire in November. We are also submitting this material for course approval in many other states of our region.
A successful training event requires quality material, skilled and versatile trainers, engaged participants, sponsors, suitable training locations, and the cooperation of the dedicated Primacy personnel that we have worked with in many of our states to obtain course approval.
We acknowledge and thank the staff of the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health, Drinking Water Section, the New York State Department of Health, Drinking Water, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Drinking Water and Wastewater Sections, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Water Resources Division, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Water Division, the State of Rhode Island Department of Health, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Safe Drinking Water for all their assistance in this extraordinary year of training program development and delivery at RCAP Solutions. We are also most appreciative of Hanna Instruments for their participation and sponsorship of trainings in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Upcoming Continuing Education Trainings for Operators
Please Contact Sukh Singh directly at (412) 554-2572 for registration, information and additional training opportunities.
- October 7, 2015 – Distribution and Water Quality Management in Millbrook, New York. Registration is closed.
- October 13, 2015 – Math and Chemistry for Water Operators in Egg Harbor New Jersey. Registration is open.
- October 14, 2015 – Distribution and Water Quality Management in Egg Harbor New Jersey. Registration is open.
- October 20, 2015 – Basic Math for Water Operators & Distribution System Water Quality Management in Providence Rhode Island. Registration is about to close.
- November 9, 2015 – Math and Chemistry for Water Operators in Franklin, New Hampshire. Registration is open.
- December 2, 2015 – Asset Management for Small Water Systems in Connecticut. Location in Connecticut is TBD. Contact Sukh or Mia McDonald at email@example.com for information.