Fly-In Review and Legislative Update

RCAP Solutions staff members were in Washington DC for our annual conference, promoting the work we do in rural communities across the northeast. RCAP Solutions is part of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, a network of six regional organizations that provide technical assistance and training for water and wastewater systems in small rural communities throughout the U.S. Pictured below is Mia McDonald, Drinking Water Specialist and Brian Scales, Chief Development & Govt. Affairs Officer with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

RCAP Solutions staff members were in Washington DC for our annual conference, promoting the work we do in rural communities across the northeast. RCAP Solutions is part of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, a network of six regional organizations that provide technical assistance and training for water and wastewater systems in small rural communities throughout the U.S. Pictured below is Mia McDonald, Drinking Water Specialist and Brian Scales, Chief Development & Govt. Affairs Officer with Senator Elizabeth Warren.

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.

Case Study – Glendale Water Association, Glendale, RI

Mia McDonald, Technical Assistance Provider, RCAP Solutions

Jesse Smith Memorial Library, Glendale, RI

Jesse Smith Memorial Library, Glendale, RI

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.

Water Operator Training Update

Students working to read samples with colorimeters while Kathleen McDermott, Technical Sales Consultant with event sponsor, Hanna Instruments looks on, at NH Department of Environmental Services, Franklin Training Facility.

Students working to read samples with colorimeters while Kathleen McDermott, Technical Sales Consultant with event sponsor, Hanna Instruments looks on, at NH Department of Environmental Services, Franklin Training Facility.

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 mmcdonald@rcapsolutions.org for information.

 

Free Training for Water Operators

free training

In Need of Training Contact Hours?

RCAP Solutions is hosting 2 FREE training sessions in Providence, Rhode Island:

  • Basic Math for Water Operators
  • Distribution System Water Quality Management

The courses are accredited by the RI Department of HEALTH and will provide water operators with 4 Training Contact Hours per course.

October 20, 2015

8:00 AM – Noon:  Basic Math for Water Operators

1:00 PM – 5:00 PM:  Distribution System Water Quality Management

Location:

Auditorium at the RI Department of Health

Office of Drinking Water Quality

3 Capitol Hill, Providence, RI

Register for one or both today!

Mia McDonald, RCAP Solutions, Inc.

Phone: 508-340-0998, Email: mmcdonald@rcapsolutions.org

Due to limited space, pre-registration is required

RCAP Solutions is funded by the U.S. EPA through a grant to the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), a non-profit organization that provides free technical assistance to rural water and wastewater communities. RCAP Solutions is a regional affiliate of RCAP.  For more info, click here.

Drinking Water Week!

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It’s Drinking Water Week!  Did you know that RCAP Solutions works with rural communities to promote public, environmental and economic health?  Through our affiliation with the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, a national network of regional nonprofit organizations, we 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.

Some statistics about the work our Technical Assistance Providers offered in 2014:

  • Technical assistance to enrolled communities: 115
  • Number of trainings conducted: 32
  • Number of participants trained: 606
  • Low income population served: 45,582
  • Leveraged funding for capital projects: $62,695,272
  • Dollar amount of loan funds awarded: $850,000
  • Participation in task forces and advisory Committees: 22

If you have any questions about how our programs can support your communities, please contact John Linehan at 978.630.6658.

Stay tuned for additional information this week about water and the work we do in small, rural communities.

USDA Rural Development Celebrates Earth Day by Supporting Water Quality Projects in 40 States and Puerto Rico

 

Of the USDA projects announced in the following release, RCAP Solutions provided technical assistance on 9 projects in CT, ME, MA, NY, and RI that were awarded funding over the past several years.  This resulted in $34,640,000  in USDA Loans and $59,111,872  in RD and Farm Bill grants for a total of $93,751,872 to small communities for water and wastewater system improvements.  

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WASHINGTON, April 22, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today celebrated Earth Day by announcing record support for 116 projects that will improve water and wastewater services for rural Americans and benefit the environment.

“Having reliable, clean and safe water is essential for any community to thrive and grow,” Vilsack said. “I am proud that USDA helps build rural communities from the ground up by supporting water infrastructure projects like these. I am especially proud that we can help communities that are struggling economically and those that have urgent health and safety concerns due to their failing water systems.”

Today’s announcement is USDA’s largest Earth Day investment in rural water and wastewater systems. Nearly $387 million is being awarded to 116 recipients in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Department is providing $150 million in grants through the 2014 Farm Bill plus $237 million in loans and grants from USDA’s Water and Environmental Program.

Also noteworthy this year are USDA’s accomplishments to help communities with the greatest needs. Sixteen of the Earth Day projects are in areas of persistent poverty. Twenty-nine are in communities served by USDA’s ” StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity.” StrikeForce is a USDA initiative to reduce poverty by increasing investments in rural communities through intensive outreach and stronger partnerships with community leaders, businesses, foundations and other groups that are working to combat poverty.

Climate change in particular is putting more stress on municipal water systems. Many areas around the country have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, declines in snowpack, intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. All of these are placing fiscal strains on communities – causing them to make more frequent (and often more expensive) repairs and upgrades.

Among projects funded this year, the city of McCrory, Ark., is receiving $2.1 million to build a water treatment facility and two water supply wells, and refurbish its two water storage tanks. The improvements will reduce high manganese and iron levels in the water supply to provide safe drinking water to McCrory’s nearly 800 residents. McCrory is in Woodruff County, a persistent poverty area that is part of USDA’s “StrikeForce initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity.”

Paintsville, Ky., is receiving a $4.9 million loan and $2.1 million grant to rehabilitate its sanitary and stormwater sewer systems. This is one of 10 projects funded by USDA that will improve water infrastructure in rural areas of Kentucky. The Paintsville project will serve nearly 2,300 residents and businesses and protect the ecosystems of Paint Creek and nearby lakes.

The city of San Joaquin, Calif., is receiving a $1 million loan/grant combination to replace a contaminated well. The city had to shut down one of its three wells due to high levels of bacteria. Once completed, this project will ensure San Joaquin residents have safe, clean drinking water.

In Ohio, the Erie County Commissioners will use $3 million in loans and nearly $3 million in grants to replace individual on-site waste treatment systems that discharge into and pollute the Sandusky Bay and surrounding areas. The commissioners also will build a wastewater collection system for the Village of Bay View and the neighboring Bay Bridge area. The Bay View peninsula is a vital ecological and economic area in the Western Basin of Lake Erie.

Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about the role each person can play to protect vital natural resources and safeguard the environment. Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the event has expanded to include citizens and governments in more than 195 countries.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

Pine Hill Water District always looks forward to RCAP’s assistance

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Candace Balmer, Water Resource Specialist

The Town of Shandaken, located in southern New York, was named after the native phrase “land of rapid waters” and is home to Slide Mountain, the highest peak in the Catskill Mountains. Shandaken is also home to The Pine Hill Water District, formed by the Town to take over an abandoned private water company serving over 200 mostly residential properties.

When  the Town initially took over the hamlet’s drinking water system, they had to make some improvements to comply with public health requirements.  This involved rehabilitating their water source, constructing a new storage reservoir, and replacing aging distribution mains.

RCAP Solutions helped the Town secure over $1.5 million in New York State Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and USDA Rural Development monies to upgrade the drinking water system.  RCAP Solutions also provided technical assistance to the Town on such issues as securing engineering and construction services, managing the project budget, providing documentation to funders, conducting a rate structure evaluation, and coordinating with primacy agencies and funders.

Most recently, RCAP Solutions has been assisting the Water District to evaluate the cost and funding options associated with several other system improvements, including remediating one of their wells, recently found to be under the direct influence of surface water (GWUDI); remediating their spring sources; and replacing several hundred feet of undersized distribution main that had not been part of the original upgrade project.

PineHillSpring box w Water Super

RCAP Solutions is also helping them to develop a comprehensive asset management plan as well as a capital reserve strategy to assure funding for ongoing repair and replacement of critical components.

They also appreciate RCAP Solutions.  Mr. Clark said: “The Pine Hill Water District always looks forward to RCAP’s assistance.  With RCAP’s help, we have been able to move the Pine Hill Water District in a forward direction, both in terms of infrastructure and finances.”

Improving the water system has been deeply appreciated by the residents and businesses of this picturesque community, as has the diligence and professionalism of their Water Superintendent, Don Clark.

Photo: Don Clark, Pine Hill Water Superintendent beside the access door to one of the spring collection boxes.

Community Resources Program Update

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

Rural communities across the country are all experiencing challenges with keeping their localities clean, healthy, and economically vibrant.  This past year has certainly shown that the federal and state governments are tightening the purse strings further impacting local communities, but in particular the small rural communities.

RCAP Solutions Community Resources Program focuses on providing technical assistance at the local level to these smaller underserved communities focusing on providing Technical, Managerial, and Financial [TMF] technical assistance to those seeking to build capacity in these areas at the local level.

In particular one area which has shown to be of great benefit to communities is in the area of Water and Wastewater Asset Management Planning [AMP] and Effective Utility Management [EUM].  In order support or bolster any local economy it is important to have the necessary infrastructure to support its existing workforce, businesses, and in many cases tourism economies which demands clean water.

The current trend is to operate and maintain existing systems in a long term and sustainable approach and there are many approaches smaller communities can take towards this end as the monies from the federal and state entities are shrinking.  As such the responsibility for community systems are ultimately lying with the community itself.  This can often be a daunting responsibility and we are here to help communities through this process.

RCAP Solutions is pleased to be able to again this year offer in many cases free technical assistance in these areas to those communities which qualify.  We also provide an array of other Direct Service Contract services to those seeking special and individualized services.

We wish all communities the best in the upcoming year and to find out more information as to our programs and services please contact Scott Mueller, Director of Community Services and Chief Rural affairs officer at 315-482-2756 or email smueller@rcapsolutions.org.

Potable Water Operator Training in Puerto Rico

PR trainingJosefa Torres, District Director

In November, RCAP Solutions provided the first of three Potable Water Operator trainings at Sila María Calderón Foundation in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

This training activity is part of the Puerto Rico Department of Health Technical Assistance Support & Circuit Rider Project, to help 48 small community-owned public water systems work towards becoming compliant with the EPA Safe Drinking Water Act.

23 participants, representing 17 communities attended the EPA-Certified Operator Training Certification classes, coordinated by RCAP Staff members Josefa Torres, District Director and Juan Campos, Community Development Specialist.

PR training2

Upon completion, these water systems will meet the U.S. national standards for safe drinking water, many for the first time in the history of these particular community public water systems.

Practical Implementation of CUPSS R&R Schedule (Not your Dad’s Rest and Relaxation)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArthur Astarita, Maine State Lead 

RCAP Solutions’ experience has shown that developed, small-sized systems (<3300 connections), have a wide-range of documenting capital improvements.  Typically a written sheet is developed showing a list of improvements including costs and is used to plan proposed upgrades.  This “mental list” is generated and updated when events arise that call for a new suggestion or thought but does not contain a comprehensive look at the entire system and financial health.  It is not holistic which is required to assure the system is operated in a long term and responsible manner.

More often is the case that only when equipment fails are capital improvement projects created to address the urgency rather than a planned approach.  Commonly, an engineering firm scopes out this “reactionary” project through the required preliminary engineering report (PER).  The engineering firm usually has a working relationship with the system and retains the “technical knowledge” but the firm does not usually conduct streaming-asset-performance analysis.  In today’s sustainability world, in order for the system to remain solvent and meet regulatory requirements, they must have the tools to document predicted equipment failure, replacement cost estimates and impacts to consumer rates.  Regular system maintenance and observations are necessary for this streaming performance analysis, replacement prediction and financial planning.

The free EPA CUPSS program (www.epa.gov/cupss) affords systems a one-stop shop to document inventory attributes, critical maintenance tasks, revenue/expense finances, mission statements, level of services, system service details along with history and report outputs for analysis.  Supported nationwide, it can become the common, simple routine for all systems to report in standard format.  This standard reporting can lead to building local and regional expertise in a “utility-helping-utility” network, generate detailed grass-roots funding gaps and impress our congressional leaders of their constituents’ needs.

Commonly, operators/superintendents have an ease using CUPSS’ import template; an Excel spreadsheet.  The user can easily copy/paste data from existing records and GIS tables. Conversely, the unique CUPSS output data can join by digitally-indexing to existing record columns and GIS tables. This flexibility allows data capture and enhancement without being repetitive. Technical assistance can be smoothly facilitated by the email exchange of the spreadsheet(s) and phone discussions prior to a site visit for report-output analysis.

Upon completion of the inventory component of the software, CUPSS generates a repair/replacement (R&R) cost schedule.  Here costs for items can be grouped by decade or by logical project task(s).  This report is perhaps the most important and critical step in reaching effective utility management.  This report allows for initial priority and emphasis of improvements along with the cost of those upgrades or maintenance activities.  This R&R cost schedule allows this critical information to be shared in a concise and organized manner with decision makers overseeing the system.

Another aspect of this program and process is that attention may be given to the maintenance budget within CUPSS. By documenting schedule and non-scheduled maintenance costs of critical equipment, a system can understand the funds needed to extend useful life expectancies.  This can reduce budget impacts of capital needed for replacement budgets.

With or without the use of CUPPS it is important to note that systems must provide proper managerial and technical expertise to insure public health.  True sustainability can be approached with the inclusion of an operations and maintenance budget. The creation of and funding in four major reserve accounts is paramount:

  1. Debt Service: 100% funded
  2. Emergency O&M: capped at ~25% of your operations budget
  3. Short-term Assets: All assets <15 year lifespan should be expensed
  4. Long-term Assets: Capital budget schedule and x% of value should be set aside annually

It is the long-term Asset reserve that is financially critical.  As governmental subsidies decline, it is increasingly becoming apparent that utilities must develop a holistic business plan approach which focuses on asset management in order to operate the system in a sustainable manner.