Private Water Well Training in Puerto Rico

waterglassRCAP Solutions will provide a free training (in Spanish) on proper management of private water wells on July 22, at Juana Diaz municipality in Puerto Rico. The workshop is geared for those who have private wells for drinking water (business, residence, farmers, ranchers, etc.) or anyone who may want to gain knowledge on this topic.

This training is aimed at providing guidance on individual water wells. It will be an excellent opportunity to engage the panel of experts on: wells for drinking water, proper management and water quality guidelines, conservation and potential sources of contamination.

Sponsored by US EPA. For additional information see the links below.  To register, contact Edwin Vazquez : evazquez-asencio@rcapsolutions.org or (787) 725-6523.

3 Registro Introducción al Cuidado de Pozo Individuales

1 Invitación Introducción al Cuidado de Pozos Individuales

Free Private Well Safe Drinking Water Workshop

Join us anwaterglassd learn about proper management of private water wells and springs. 

Thousands of people in Massachusetts rely on private wells for their drinking water.  These wells are the responsibility of the homeowner.  It is up to you to make sure that your well is providing clean drinking water and we want to help!

Workshop will provide information on:Well

  • Water well location & construction
  • Maintenance and management of existing water wells
  • Solving water quality and quantity problems

The Workshop will also include live participation in a webinar in affiliation with the Private Well Class, performed by Steve Wilson, a groundwater hydrologist from the University of Illinois.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, (Registration at 6:00 PM) 

Mount Wachusett Community College, North Café, 444 Green St, Gardner, MA

Register Today! Click here or call 978-630-9525

The workshop is free, however advance registration is requested.

This complimentary workshop is funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency, 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.

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.

Spring 2014 Watershed to Well

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The Spring Watershed to Well is now available!  

You may access it by clicking here.

If you are not currently on the email distribution list, but would like to be added, please contact Maegen McCaffrey at mmccaffrey@rcapsolutions.org.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Educational Tools to Sustain Our Rural Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems

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Sukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training, RCAP Solutions 

RCAP Solutions is a private nonprofit 501c 3 multi-state Regional Training and Technical Assistance Center that simultaneously serves as a Massachusetts based Economic Development Agency with a variety of housing, lending and client programs that all support self-sufficiency.  RCAP Solutions serves as the northeast member of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) with headquarters in Worcester, Massachusetts and onsite drinking water and wastewater technical assistance specialists and trainers throughout the Northeast and Caribbean.  The RCAP National Headquarters are in Washington DC and the website is www.rcap.org.  All RCAP specialists utilize state and federal funding to work onsite with small rural drinking water and wastewater systems to effect four community outcomes:

a)      Improved environmental and community health

b)      Compliance with federal and state regulations

c)      Sustainable water and waste disposal facilities

d)      Increased capability of local leaders to address current and future needs.

For many years, RCAP personnel have documented the unique challenges small systems face in providing reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet federal and state regulations.  These challenges include but are not limited to a lack of financial resources and customer base, aging infrastructure, management limitations, and high staff turnover.  At RCAP we offer technical assistance and training to system personnel and boards to raise awareness of technical, managerial, and financial issues and to improve the operations and compliance of these small systems.

The funding sources that RCAP utilizes to deliver training and technical assistance are highlighted here along with the types of technical assistance offered to communities.   These funding streams translate to the delivery of quality training and technical assistance programs unmatched by any other technical service provider to small and rural systems.  It is important to note that the RCAP technical assistance program is nationwide with technical assistance providers that work directly onsite with communities.  RCAP is also not a membership based association driven by dues, so programmatic efforts are very compatible with federal funding guidelines.  RCAP utilizes Health and Human services funding to improve water and wastewater facilities in small, low-income, rural communities.  With this funding, RCAP staff annually provide a variety of key training programs, serve on advisory councils and develop innovative programming in addition to serving roughly 600-750 communities with technical assistance.    For FY 2014 so far, RCAP Solutions staff have delivered long-term technical assistance to over 114 communities, delivered 130 technical assistance consultations to additional communities and we have conducted over 50 trainings to 289 community members.  Currently RCAP Solutions staff also participate in 16 task forces and program activities throughout our northeast region.  General examples of ways RCAP utilizes this funding includes the provision of workshops for small systems on asset management and budgeting, follow-up with state primacy and agency referrals, conferences and training development in the area of decentralized and onsite wastewater, rate reviews, and TMF (technical, managerial, and financial) training and assistance for small systems.  This year, RCAP Solutions staff are utilizing this funding to participate in the WARN (Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network)  meetings and activities in Pennsylvania and Maine, participate in the RCAP National Training Work Group and training activities, participate in the educational planning committee for the Massachusetts Drinking Water Day, and assist with the Ashokan Release Working Group (ARWG) Technical Subcommittee and NYS DEC Non-Point Source Pollution workgroup, as well as attendance at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference and participation at the Annual New Hampshire Drinking Water Training and Expo.

Since 1988, RCAP has worked with RUS (Rural Utilities Service) to provide assistance to communities of 3,300 or fewer residents that are eligible for RUS loans or grants- helping them both with the technical aspects of systems operations and with finding the financial resources necessary to operate their systems sustainably.  By putting these communities on the path to fiscal sustainability, RCAP reduces their reliance on future government grants and loans.  The RCAP network works closely with the Rural Development’s long-and short-term performance measures-particularly the goal of “ensuring the sustainability of water and wastewater systems in rural communities.”  For FY 2014, RCAP Solutions staff have provided long-term technical assistance to over 72 communities, conducted 3 board trainings (with more scheduled) and have trained over 63 staff and board members in small systems.  RCAP Solutions staff is also currently working on 5 Vulnerability Assessments and Emergency Response Plans with more scheduled.  This year it should also be noted that RCAP Solutions staff have assisted to develop capital projects and leverage over $8 million dollars of federal and state funds to benefit these rural communities.  Across our RCAP network, Rural Development is served by all of our regional RCAPs thus bringing the numbers of communities served with this funding source to well over 750 on an annual basis.

RCAP has also partnered successfully with the EPA in serving small water and wastewater systems for over 20 years and much of the technical assistance and training that is offered is customized for these very small drinking and wastewater systems to address compliance and local leadership issues. Some examples of our previous operator training deliverables and summer workshop series were highlighted in previous blogs by this author and are available here and here.

These training products and materials were made possible courtesy of our EPA/RCAP Training and Technical Assistance for Small POTW and Onsite/Decentralized Wastewater Systems and Private Well Owners to Improve Water Quality Project 2012-2013.  With this funding the RCAP Network provided over 30 on-site technical assistance projects, 20 face-to-face training sessions for system managers of small drinking water systems, 6 new training videos on wastewater collection and treatment impacts on watersheds, and over 80 half–day trainings for beginning and intermediate operators and 3 technical training webinars.  In addition, there were numerous and separate training and technical assistance activities for the private well and onsite/decentralized wastewater portions of the EPA grant as noted above.  When the grant closed, RCAP network staff had achieved 100% completion of all grant deliverables in a timely manner and feedback from the systems was overwhelmingly positive.

This year the RCAP activities will be focused on training and technical assistance activities supporting compliance of our small drinking water systems with the Safe Drinking Water Act and improving water quality through training and technical assistance to private well owners.  The outcome of this technical assistance for small and rural communities is improved compliance, improved public health, sustainable facilities and increased awareness by local leaders of future needs.

At RCAP Solutions we are making these connections every day for funders, politicians and local leaders when it comes to supporting the water and wastewater infrastructure needs of our small and rural systems. RCAP services promote economic self-sufficiency and system viability for the future.

A Local Leader’s Guide to Generating Legislative Advocacy for Your Project

advocacySukhwindar Singh, Director of Education and Training, RCAP Solutions

A recent conversation with a small wastewater system in southwestern Pennsylvania and then again with a small drinking water system in central Pennsylvania has reminded me of the need to highlight a couple of successful steps that small systems can take to build and develop legislative advocacy for local projects.  In its simplest terms, legislative advocacy means working with individual lawmakers and lawmaking bodies to gain support for your local initiatives and projects.  Such efforts are usually successful over a period of time and thus longer-term infrastructure development or rehab projects can be ideal community projects to highlight for your state and local representatives, even when the funding for the project is far down the road.   While legislative support can take several forms including a bill with funding attached, a bill with wording that supports a particular philosophy or helps to legitimize an issue, a bill with regulations that assist a target population or a local ordinance, it is often the budget advocacy and the political and moral support as well as links to other contacts that persuade most of our RCAP community leaders to improve efforts in this area.

Timing is a critical element in conducting effective legislative advocacy.   While many of our community leaders keep at it as often as they can, deciding when to push can be crucial to success.  Some things to consider on timing of requests are when lawmakers are about to take up something crucial to the issue such as an infrastructure bill, just before and during budget time, when a vote is likely to be very close or a veto is considered or when a bill can be amended, or when an issue in your community is drawing attention.  At the very least, legislative education and outreach should be a part of any community initiative linked to your project.  It is your chance to tell your community story and to identify clearly the local need and generate support for your project.  Secondly, it is important to remember that your legislators want to hear from you or your group directly.  These legislators represent you and a personal approach can be quite effective.  For agencies and organizations, advocates and lobbyists can also be effective in highlighting issues and creating awareness.  However, it should be remembered that nobody becomes effective in this area overnight or by “going it alone.”    It helps to assemble a team of allies that include your county planners, RCAP, local community and business leaders, and ultimately your project engineer.  Lastly, be prepared to discuss the economic impacts of your project in terms of jobs created or retained, local businesses impacts and prospects for local development, most recent income survey data or other median household income data, and highlight what other populations (tourists and recreation enthusiasts, educational, etc) will be attracted to your community after the project is funded and developed.  It also helps to identify and note the local cash and inkind match as this is an indicator of serious local preparation for this project.  With many communities competing for the same sources of funding, those that are often willing to think “outside the box” and prepare early to engage local and state representatives may be more successful at obtaining funding.

At RCAP Solutions, we have the resources and training materials to assist you in this area.  Contact your local technical assistance provider to begin planning your efforts.  Building successful support for your local project with legislators involves the following steps summarized below.  Remember also that you may need to build out from these steps and RCAP is here to assist.

1)      Make sure your local project is well-defined in terms of scope and project description, local need, local support and documentation of issue (compliance, funding, public health, other, etc.) and local match.

2)      Gather project allies, advocates, contacts and develop a coherent communication and coordination structure that provides consistent messaging and required actions of all parties.

3)      Learn about the legislative process at every opportunity and get to know your local and state legislators, county commissioners, and Legislative Director for your congressional district.

4)      Learn to write effective letters and emails to legislators about your project and begin communicating with these individuals in a personal and direct manner as well.

5)      Define and clarify your message as you move forward and remember that at any time you could be explaining the project for the first time to a newly elected legislator.

6)      Define and clarify your request or “ask” of the legislator.

7)      Develop a positive relationship with the media and get comfortable with staging local events such as tours, “meet and greets” and community-get togethers with legislative officials.  Offer to support such events if your legislator is looking for those local opportunities.

8)      Pay attention to the timing of your request or event, but take a longer term approach when it comes to the legislative advocacy process.

9)      Be prepared to discuss economic impacts of your proposed project and local efforts to support this project directly with your legislator.

10)   Do not quit, a solid advocacy effort never ends.

11)   Make sure to invite and include all project allies, contacts and your local legislators in check signing events (when you do eventually get that funding) and thank them for their efforts.

Lastly it may help to remember this.  Many areas that are now regularly discussed and funded by legislative bodies- environmental preservation, adult literacy education, services for the homeless-were unmentioned and, often, unheard of until concerted efforts by advocates brought them to lawmakers’ attention.  RCAP Solutions technical assistance staff advocate for rural communities and small drinking water and wastewater systems.  If your particular project fulfills a larger need or requires closure of a funding gap that similar projects face, then it may be time to make that connection for your legislator.

For web resources on this topic, please visit the Community Tool Box, a public service of the University of Kansas, maintained by the Work Group for Community Health and Development.  The Community Tool Box is a free, online resource that contains more than 7,000 pages of practical information for promoting community health and development, and is a global resource for professionals and grassroots groups.