RCAP Solutions Supports Wastewater and Drinking Water Efforts in the Broad Top Region of Pennsylvania for Over 30 Years

Author: Sukhwindar Singh, Pennsylvania State Manager

Broad Top Township is located in rural northern Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Much of the township has a rugged topography, befitting its site in the Appalachian Mountains. It has a current population (2020 estimate) of about 1500. For many decades, the area thrived on the coal mining industry (with mining on the “Broad Top”), which still exists in limited form today. The Township is now primarily a bedroom community for larger, local municipalities, and has a high percentage of retirees. It is also the site of a regional landfill serving multiple counties.

The on-lot disposal of wastewater is difficult throughout the mountainous regions of Pennsylvania. Severe slopes and thin soils limit the options for traditional on-lot treatment. Prior to current environmental regulations, it was common for wastewater to be discharged directly to local streams, with no management. This was the situation faced by the Broad Top Township supervisors in the 1980s

Late in the decade, the Township took a bold and innovative approach to solving its problems with on-lot sewage treatment. Working in partnership with RCAP Solutions Technical Assistance Providers, the Township began to prepare an official planning document (Act 537 Plan) to address sewage planning on a township-wide basis. The final Plan had features that were- and perhaps still are – unique in the Commonwealth, even after 30 years. The central theme was that residents who became connected to conventional treatment facilities, along with those who allowed the Township to own and operate on-lot systems on private properties, would all be charged an equal monthly “sewage bill.” After receiving significant grant funding at the federal level, the township-wide system began operation in the 1990s. The initial monthly fee of $10 has slowly increased to only $22/month. There are currently 27 small flow treatment facilities and 49 sand mounds serving 97 residences along with a larger centralized wastewater facility.

RCAP Solutions has continued its involvement in the Township since it began nearly 35 years ago. Beginning in 1991, significant technical assistance was provided to the Defiance Water Company, which serves residents in the unincorporated village of Defiance. Similar assistance was provided for decades to the Coaldale Area Water Company, which has a customer base in the Borough of Coaldale as well as the Township.

The Township’s efforts to successfully manage wastewater treatment have been substantial and it has numerous physical assets. The need for an accurate system map became apparent by 2020. RCAP is now providing GIS mapping of the wastewater system, which wll be completed in 2022. It is expected that the mapping will include over 1100 discrete data points. The GIS data will be made available to the Bedford County Planning Commission, where it can be stored for future updates and modifications.

BroadTop Supervisor Donald Hedge being filmed by HHS film crew

More recently, the Broad Top Township Board of Supervisors have been interviewed by a Health and Human Services (HHS) film crew to tell the story of the region. We will be excited to share the video when it is released.

According to the County Planning Director, Donald Schwartz, “We value the partnership that has been forged between Bedford County and RCAP. The relationship goes back for more than three decades, and RCAP has always been there for us, in numerous municipalities. Our rural townships and boroughs appreciate everything that RCAP has done to keep their drinking water and wastewater systems safe and financially viable. I can’t think of a better investment of federal tax dollars in our county.”

This article is dedicated to the early leaders in Broad Top Township who forged ahead with a bold wastewater plan- Jack Decker, Bernard Hoffnar, Ernest Fuller, Dave Thomas, and Donald Hedge and all of the men and women who have served the Broad Top region. Thank you for your efforts to clean and improve the water and land of Broad Top! To all the current staff of Broad Top Township, thank you for your considerable efforts to introduce senior housing to the area, to solve AMD (Abandoned Mine Drainage) issues and to extend utility services to neighboring communities.

Planning, Persistence, Patience, and Teamwork is Rewarded!

CASE STUDY

Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Tribal Lands held in Trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Total Population Served: 244
Maine’s 2nd Congressional District
RCAP Solutions, Inc. funded by USDA Tribal Tech Program to provide facilities development services including:
• Securing an engineer
• Siting issues
• Funding applications
• Facilitating public meetings

BACKGROUND

The Houlton Water Company’s two pump stations that serve the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians need to be upgraded. Approximately twenty new connections have been added to the system — which is taxing the current design capacity. The lift station pumps have been failing before the expected end of life. Overflows at the lift stations have been documented as a public health hazard. These failures are also creating an increase in operational costs to maintain the system. Houlton Water Company and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians needed to secure an engineer and develop a funding mechanism plan to upgrade the system to eliminate overflow events and increase capacity for the rising population on the reservation.

THE CHALLENGE
There were many nuanced challenges to overcome to be able to apply and access project funding. The first major hurdle was that Houlton Water Company owns all sewer system components that service the tribal land which led to the concern that it may be necessary to transfer ownership to the Houlton Band of Maliseet in order to access set aside funds for Native Americans. The next challenge was to verify that the project was going to alleviate a public health hazard. Extensive documentation was needed to show the impact of overflow events to the tribe. Lastly, the project needed to be structured so that federal funding was not intertwined and it lined up appropriately to enable a full funding package.

“I am very glad that the RCAP Program is present and available to provide this technical assistance free of charge. The program has already made a big impact and we all look forward to many years of involvement with RCAP and service to the Maine Tribes.”
CDR Kenneth J. Grant, PE, Bangor Field Office, Nashville Area, Indian Health Service

THE APPROACH & SOLUTION
Although both Houlton Water Company and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians were willing to return ownership of the sewer components back to the tribe if necessary, RCAP advocated for the wastewater infrastructure to remain under Houlton Water Company’s ownership. The relationship between the two entities was very cooperative and the system was well-managed under the current structure. Changing ownership would only be an undue burden. The funding agencies all agreed.

Sufficient documentation and explanation of the events, as well as action taken by Houlton Water Company regarding overflow of untreated wastewater, was then provided to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP formally concurred with the concern that the pump stations needed upgrades to protect the environment and public health of this area. This confirmation was a vital part to be able to access Indian Setback funds from both Indian Health Services and USDA.

RCAP then prepared a request for proposals to retain engineering services. Once the engineer was on board, RCAP coordinated a kick-off meeting to begin the design phase of the project. After the preliminary engineering report (PER) and environmental review were finalized and approved, RCAP stepped back into the mix to help finalize the USDA loan application and public meetings. Indian Health Service (IHS) utilized the PER to aid in their attempt to secure IHS funding for a related but separate project, which primarily dealt operation and maintenance element of the designed product. Finally, the project team applied to the DEP Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF).

THE IMPACT
The project was initially waitlisted for CWSRF but, in August of 2021, thanks to the availability of funds through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), the project was awarded with $1M of American Recovery Grant Funds. In February of 2022, USDA reached out to the project group with the exciting news that the project was approved for $1.1M in Indian Set Aside Funds. It is believed that the project is well positioned to be able to access funds from the EPA Clean Water Act (Tribal Set-Aside) totaling $977K for FY 2022. In total, the project is anticipated to receive $3.057M in grant funds to ensure that the public health hazard is eliminated for the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians.

RCAP’s involvement in this project has been over two years in development. Through planning, persistence, patience and teamwork, this project group was able to overcome many obstacles to be awarded the best outcome possible for Houlton Water Company and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians lift station project. The project team anticipates being able to complete construction in 2022.

RCAP Solutions is Providing Water Auditing and Leakage Management Assistance to Water Utilities in the Centre County, PA Region

We are pleased to reach out and share the news that RCAP Solutions is partnering with Cavanaugh & Associates, P.A. and Kunkel Water Efficiency Consulting to provide technical assistance and training to water utilities in the Bald Eagle Creek Watershed area of Centre County, Pennsylvania on water auditing and leakage management. Utilities will learn best practice methods for compiling an annual water audit and water loss control techniques, helping them conserve large volumes of water, and enabling them to be more financially resilient and environmentally sustainable. This program is made possible thanks to generous funding from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

Water utilities in the Bald Eagle Creek Watershed and adjacent areas are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity. Because the Bald Eagle Creek Watershed in Centre County is a designated priority watershed and potentially water stressed area, conservation efforts play an important role in environmental sustainability. RCAP Solutions and its technical assistance partners will be offering services based on the American Water Works Association (AWWA)’s best practice and water auditing and leakage management methods.

The services being offered include:

  • AWWA Water Audit Training: We will be hosting a 2-day in-person training during the Spring of 2023. This training will be open to all utilities in Centre County, Pennsylvania and nearby communities and will provide education on the AWWA Free Water Audit Software and advanced leakage management methods. It is intended that the training will qualify for continuing education hours for certified water system operators under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP). There is no cost to the water utility to attend this event. Additional information regarding this event will be announced soon. It is expected that the training will be repeated later in 2023 and 2024.
  • Water Audit Validation & Operational Assessments: For select utilities, we will be conducting a detailed evaluation of their water audit (known as a water audit validation), including inspection and evaluation of production flowmeters and supply data, leak and main break data, pressure management practices, customer metering and billing practices, review of the costs of water production and operations, and development of recommendations for improvements in measuring water withdrawals, water auditing, and leakage management. For most water utilities this service will be at no cost.
  • Implement Advanced Leakage Management: For select utilities, we will provide engineering guidance and direction to install equipment (funded by our grant from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission) to establish advanced leakage controls, which may include installation of one or more District Metered Areas (DMA), advanced pressure management, leak noise logging/correlation, and other techniques. Participating utilities may be requested to make a modest in-kind funding contribution to participate at this level of the program.

Nationwide, an estimated six billion gallons of water per day is taken from water sources but never reaches the customer; this is enough water to supply the drinking water needs of the ten largest cities in the United States. Water loss also results in revenue loss for many utilities.

Through this initiative, RCAP Solutions and its partners aim to advance the knowledge and skills of utilities in regard to water loss control techniques, help them to conserve water, and to improve their financial resiliency and environmental sustainability.

If your utility is interested in participating in this program or would like further information, please contact Sukhwindar Singh, Pennsylvania State Manager, via email: ssingh@rcapsolutions.org or phone: (412) 554-2572

Susquehanna River Basin Commission Awards RCAP Solutions $454,522 for Water Loss Prevention and Assistance

RCAP Solutions is pleased to have been awarded a $454,522 grant from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission!

This funding will be used to provide technical assistance and training to small water utilities in Centre County, Pennsylvania on water auditing and leakage prevention. Utilities will learn water loss techniques, helping them conserve large volumes of water, enabling them to be more financially resilient and environmentally sustainable.

Check out the full press release here.

Testimonial – Borough of Midland, Pennsylvania

Check out this testimonial from the Borough of Midland, Pennsylvania!

Our team in the Keystone State has been working this community to improve their water and sewer infrastructure through GIS mapping, application assistance for funding programs, and more.

Midland is a small, rural community located on the edge of western Pennsylvania. A former manufacturing giant, the borough has been attempting to drive small businesses back to the area in the wake of their steel mill’s closure, which once played a major part in Midland’s economy and workforce.

The consultant for the authority, Brigid Darbut, has been working with RCAP Solutions as well as several other community organizations and leaders to introduce revitalization efforts in the town, not only through improved water infrastructure, but through economic development, shared services, and more.

Juncos’ Landfill Repairs and Expansion After Hurricane Maria

Written By: Edwin Vázquez-Asencio, Sustainable Materials Management Specialist

Juncos municipality is in the eastern central region of Puerto Rico. Juncos’ landfill receives approximately 35,105 tons of non-hazardous solid waste each year. In 2017, winds from Hurricane Maria destroyed the facility’s leachate collection system, creating a serious health and safety hazard for neighboring communities and was at risk of contaminating underground water resources and nearby streams. The storm’s effects also reduced the landfill’s capacity by 20% and severely reduced its predicted lifespan.

The main challenge was to define the project and determine how the municipality could finance the necessary repairs that were imperative to address this problem. Our goal was to protect the community’s health, assist them in achieving compliance, and support the transition of the facility into a sanitary landfill system. In addition, the community also needed to account for the capacity overflow due to the extraordinary amount of debris which the landfill received in the aftermath of the disaster.

The RCAP Solutions staff served as a fundamental liaison between the municipality, stakeholders, and USDA Rural Development as we assisted the municipality in achieving compliance. Our technical assistance provider coordinated and conducted a training about disaster assistance grant funding and guided them throughout the process, outlining key elements to completing a successful application for USDA funds.

USDA Rural Development awarded Juncos’ Municipality with $23.7 million in grant funding to repair its landfill facilities. The facilities will be expanded to achieve compliance, and in addition, the community’s health will no longer be at risk due to the damage caused by the hurricane.

Five-Year Coral Bay Watershed Management Plan Released

The Coral Bay Community Council (CBCC), a non-profit organization which helps communities in the U.S. Virgin Islands with environmental issues, recently released their 2021 Watershed Management Plan, a detailed 5-year outline for the future management of their stormwater and drinking water supply.

The plan is the result of over two years of work by Watershed Consulting Associates, CBCC, local residents, government agencies, and various other community development organizations.

In the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, and the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the residents of Coral Bay will benefit from this plan, which incorporates professional analysis and stakeholder input to create a shared vision to address threats to water quality in and around the area.

The full plan can be viewed bewlow or at www.coralbaycommunitycouncil.org, along with an accompanying shorter, “Community Handbook” version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information, check out CBCC’s press release, here.

RCAP Solutions is a long-time collaborator of CBCC. In addition to contributions made to support this plan, our team in the Caribbean has a extensive history of partnering with the council to provide vital education to industry professionals as well as residents surrounding drinking water, wastewater, and solid waste management.

RCAP Solutions Hires Business Opportunity Specialist

RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce the addition of Madison Wellman as Business Opportunity Specialist, managing the Open for Business program, a new economic development initiative providing support to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Mr. Wellman comes to RCAP Solutions with a diverse background in economic development, nonprofit management, sales, research, and communications. He has experience working in the political arena, as well as with small business startups, which provides him with a unique understanding of diverse business and community challenges.

Wellman served as the Regional Representative for Congressman Antonio Delgado in Oneonta, NY and Delhi, NY, where he worked closely with constituents from diverse backgrounds, including both nonprofit and for-profit enterprises, and municipal government officials. In this role, he met with project stakeholders to discuss issues such as funding resources, grant opportunities, small business concerns, and agricultural issues. He also has experience launching new offices with Bright Drive Healthcare Solutions, where he identified suitable offices spaces, negotiated with realtors and property owners, and addressed other logistical start up challenges. Prior to this, he managed economic development projects at the town and county level for both Schoharie County and the Town of Schoharie, NY. Wellman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in International Business and Economics from Canisius College of Buffalo, NY.

The Open for Business program is funded by Wells Fargo and offers self-guided online workshops, monthly webinars, and one-on-one consulting. This program offers education on a wide-variety of business concepts and caters to the specific needs of many rural, disadvantaged, and minority-owned small businesses. Topics include business law, business planning, marketing, financing, and accounting. These services are provided at no cost, in both English and Spanish, and are coordinated by our national affiliate, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), to provide services to small businesses across the country. RCAP Solutions services the Northeast and Caribbean regions.

“Mr. Wellman is a great complement to our team,” said Jenna Day, RCAP Solutions Director of Community Resources. “His understanding of rural community needs, paired with his legislative work and small business experience makes him the ideal person to support the small business community. The addition of the Open for Business program to our suite of services further expands our ability to support the economic development needs of rural communities in the northeast and Caribbean regions. The wide variety of resources, customized to cater to small business entrepreneurs, provides tremendous opportunity for underserved communities, and those who live and work there, to grow, thrive and cultivate stronger communities.”

RCAP Solutions’ Community Resources staff works hand in hand with community leaders and homeowners to incorporate the best tools and resources suited to protect public health and the environment while progressing towards financial sustainability and improved quality of life.

For additional information about the Open for Business Program, please contact Madison Wellman, Business Opportunity Specialist at: (774) 239-9783, mwellman@rcapsolutions.org or visit: www.rcapsolutions.org/open-for-business/.

About RCAP Solutions:
RCAP Solutions is an integrated community development corporation working with a multi-faceted suite of services in communities throughout the northeastern part of the U.S. and the Caribbean. 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. For more information, please visit www.rcapsolutions.org.

RCAP Solutions Hires Deputy Director of Community Resources

RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce the promotion of Mark Johnson to Deputy Director of Community Resources.

“As someone who knows something about the job Mark is about to tackle, I can say that the most important skill required is the ability to be flexible and consider the big picture when making decisions”, said Jenna Day, Director of Community Resources, “I have confidence in his ability to carry the role of Deputy Director with ease. Mark respects others’ opinions and is comfortable in sharing his knowledge and experience. I look forward to having his assistance shaping the future of RCAP Solutions’ work throughout the Northeast and Caribbean.”

Mr. Johnson received his Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Johnson’s promotion comes after serving six years at the organization as Vermont State Lead.

Johnson has over 20 years of experience in the drinking water field. Prior to joining RCAP, he worked as a water quality engineer at a large, investor-owned water utility in California and before that as a water operator for a small municipal utility in Maine. In his previous role as Vermont State Lead, Mr. Johnson acted as the primary liaison to state primacy agencies and funding officials and provided direct technical assistance to small water and wastewater systems.

“Being able to work directly with Vermont communities on challenging water and wastewater issues has provided me with some of the most rewarding experiences of my career” said Johnson, “RCAP Solutions continues to broaden its impact yet remain flexible amidst a myriad of challenges being faced by rural America. I’m eager and thankful to have an expanded role in shaping that conversation and supporting the technical assistance providers who dedicate themselves to serving their communities and finding solutions.”

RCAP Solutions’ Community Resources staff works hand in hand with community leaders and homeowners to incorporate the best tools and resources suited to protect public health and the environment while progressing towards financial sustainability and improved quality of life.

About RCAP Solutions:
RCAP Solutions is a thriving integrated community development corporation working with a multi-faceted suite of services and opportunities. 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. For more information, please visit www.rcapsolutions.org.

Testimonial – Town of Grafton, Vermont

Check out this testimonial from the chair of Grafton, Vermont’s Water/Wastewater Study Commission!

RCAP Solutions assisted the town in completing two surveys of their drinking water quality and wastewater management. Because the town has no central community system, residents rely entirely on individual water sources and wastewater disposal systems.

Through the Vermont Department of Health, our staff was able to acquire drinking water test kits, at no charge, for residents who rely on private wells. Fortunately, the water tests did not identify any contamination issues.

Nonetheless, RCAP Solutions encouraged the town to take a closer look at high-priority properties throughout the area. The town continues to improve their water and wastewater infrastructure, with RCAP providing strategic guidance and recommendations for state and federal funding opportunities.

This work is made possible because of the generous support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.