Technical Assistance during a Boil Order

Bolton Country Manor’s wellhead area.

Written by James P. Starbard, Massachusetts State Lead
Funder: EPA1

Bolton Country Manor is located in the rural central Massachusetts town of Bolton. It is a U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) owned low income senior housing facility that also serves as the Town of Bolton’s Senior Center. RCAP Solutions was assisting this system to find a new qualified water operator due to the retirement of their previous water operator. An RCAP Solutions staff member with a water operator certification also assisted with regular operations to ensure the community stayed in compliance with drinking water regulations during the interim period.

During this period, routine water samples were taken monthly, and one set of samples tested positive for Total Coliform. When repeat water samples were taken, per the Revised Total Coliform Rule, one sample tested positive for E Coli bacteria. The positive sample for E coli sets in motion an automatic Boil Order and numerous follow up actions which RCAP Solutions proceeded to assist the community with.

First and foremost, due to the highly susceptible nature of the community’s elderly population, and after consulting with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), RCAP helped to provide information to residents to make sure they boiled their water before use and provided outreach on the proper techniques to do so safely. Also, RCAP helped to arrange for the instillation of an emergency chlorination system on the community’s water system to disinfect the bacteria and make the water safe to drink again. After multiple sampling rounds of the system’s water and ongoing monitoring of the chlorine residual, a few days later the water was declared safe to drink again without boiling and the community’s residents were notified that the Boil Order had been lifted.

After the immediate emergency was resolved, the task of identifying how the bacterial contamination occurred began which included internal inspections, inspections by MassDEP staff as part of a Sanitary Survey, and a level 2 assessment conducted by an outside third-party water operator. Through these inspections, several possible deficiencies were identified and then abated. The system was brought into full compliance with all MassDEP requirements that were identified during these inspections.

With completion of the corrective actions, the emergency chlorination was disconnected from the community’s water system and the water was sampled and analyzed to ensure the bacterial issue did not return. After monitoring for several months, the original task of assisting the community to hire a qualified water operator was fulfilled with the hiring of a certified contract water operator firm through the signing of service contract with the community. RCAP also provided an orientation of the company’s staff to introduce them to the nuances of the water system. Currently water operations are moving smoothly, and the bacterial issue has not reoccurred.

The Importance of Communication in Planning Infrastructure Upgrades and Water User-Rate Adjustments in Rumford and Bridgton Maine

Congress Street Construction, Rumford, ME

Written by Art Astarita, Maine State Lead
Funder: USDA Technitrain and HHS OCS

RUMFORD MAINE – Infrastructure Upgrades
RCAP Solutions was very successful in facilitating this much needed communication between the town of Rumford and the Rumford Water District which serves about 1,700 of the town’s total population of 5,840 people.

RCAP Solutions created an asset management plan for the Rumford Water District and encouraged the superintendent to share the plan with the town planner. Timing of this communication was advantageous as the town was planning a large-scale improvement to the downtown business district. Initially, the town was looking to repave the streets and to replace sidewalks, lighting and other “superficial” improvements. The sewer department and water district represented the “out of sight” infrastructure located under the business district.

The total project cost is estimated at $5 million for the downtown improvements of which the water district will reimburse the town $990,000 for its’ part of the project. Although the vertical asset analysis broadened the scope and cost of the project, the necessary replacement of water, sewer, and storm-water pipes will ensure a final product that will serve residents for many years into the future and help to attract business to a revitalized downtown. The project is expected to be completed in 2019.

BRIDGTON MAINE – Water Rate Adjustments
Normally, water rates are adjusted at a time when the utility is incurring a new debt to fund a capital improvement of the system. The new improvement is frequently planned and based upon an asset management program.

Bridgton Water District, located in western Maine, serves about 2,000 people of the 5,200 residents of the town of Bridgton. In 2017, the town of Bridgton decided to upgrade their sewer system, including reconstructing sidewalks, installing energy efficient lighting and traffic safety measures and providing an appealing streetscape. The project is estimated to cost approximately $22 million when everything is said and done.

RCAP Solutions assisted the town in conducting an income survey of the sewer users to ensure an accurate income is used to determine the system’s optimum loan and grant funding package. During the initial phases of the survey, RCAP Solutions visited the water district to ensure they were aware of the project and asked if any of the water pipes would be impacted. RCAP Solutions suggested they submit households in their impacted area to be included in the income survey. Unfortunately, the water district was not prepared and subsequently not ready to make such decisions. The survey was completed in January 2018 and revealed that the median household income (MHI) of the project area qualifies for at least a 50% grant from the USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS). In November 2018, the town authorized issuing a general obligation bond or note not to exceed $13,528,000 to fund the balance of the project.

In December 2018, the water district had their engineering firm estimate water pipe impacts within the sewer project area. It was estimated that $600,000 of pipe should be replaced during the sewer work. This cast iron pipe replacement is mainly due to age and construction work in immediate proximity. The water district inquired to RCAP Solutions about the survey coverage and if there could be a subset of the survey that covered the water users within the sewer survey. Upon analysis, there were still 22 households requiring response within the 43 water-user household target area. The water district thought it would be best and most efficient to canvas the households themselves. Due to the sensitive nature of the questions (“what is your household income?”), many did not answer. RCAP Solutions recently spoke to RUS and it was determined that the town and water district specifically already qualifies for up to 45% grant funding. Since there is not an imminent health hazard, there is no possibility of a lower rate or additional grant percentage.

The District is working with the engineer to complete the RD-apply application process for the 2020 construction season for this project. Once the application is submitted and approved, the District will realize the funding assistance available and RCAP Solutions can complete the rate adjustment to fund repayment of the new debt.

RCAP Solutions Receives USDA Disaster Assistance Funds for Puerto Rico Communities Affected by Hurricane Maria

Contact: Maegen McCaffrey, RCAP Solutions

978-630-6714, mmccaffrey@rcapsolutions.org

Washington, DC (September 10, 2019) – The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and our northeastern regional partner RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce the receipt of disaster assistance funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for three rural communities in Puerto Rico. These communities were badly affected by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

The communities receiving assistance are: Acuedouctos Barrio Guayabota Yabucoa, Inc.; Pozo de Agua, Inc.; and Comunidad Sector Los Gomez, Inc. The three communities combined received $169,571 in federal assistance from USDA.

“2017’s Hurricane Maria created a monumental shift in how we think about disaster recovery,” said Karen A. Koller, RCAP Solutions President and CEO. “We were fortunate to have the first boots on the ground as our organization worked around the clock to assist communities and assess the tremendous damage done to Puerto Rico’s small water systems. We applaud the USDA for providing the necessary resources for the revitalization and rebuilding of the Island. Access to safe and clean drinking water will only become more important as we see continued climate change. Creating sustainability for the long term in the Caribbean will continue to be an ongoing priority for our team, who lives and breathes their vitally important work at RCAP Solutions.”

Acueductos Barrio Guayabota Yabucoa is in Yabucoa, the eastern region of Puerto Rico. This water system serves 600 families, and several small businesses and community organizations. The water system is still severely affected by Maria and without power. The funding they received will provide generators and lab equipment needed for the system to increase compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

Pozo de Aqua is in Caguas, the central mountain range of Puerto Rico, and provides drinking water to approximately 183 families. The water system needs extensive repairs from damages caused by Maria. The funding they received will replace pipes, wells and other equipment and help prepare the system for any future disaster.

Comunidad Sector Los Gomez is in the central eastern part of Puerto Rico. Prior to Hurricane Maria, the system provided drinking water to 60 families, but the system lost power for six months following the disaster. The USDA funding will allow the community to replace damaged equipment and purchase a new generator. Because Maria damaged the water tank and well, the community is planning a second phase of funding to evaluate soil conditions to determine if next steps are needed to ensure the system is safe for all citizens.

“Even before Hurricanes Irma and Maria came through Puerto Rico, our team has been working with some of the smallest, most remote areas across the island. The tremendous support that our team in Puerto Rico provided to these communities was critical in securing these funds for three of the island’s hardest hit and lowest capacity areas,” said RCAP CEO Nathan Ohle. “The success each community had in securing these funds is exactly the reason the RCAP network is working to build capacity in small communities across the country and is a testament to the incredible work the team at our partner RCAP Solutions is accomplishing every day.”

About RCAP:
RCAP is a network of nonprofit organizations working to ensure rural and small communities throughout the United States have increased capacity to drive access to safe drinking water, sanitary wastewater, economic development and disaster recovery that leads to economic prosperity. To learn more about this work visit: rcap.org.

About RCAP Solutions:
Established in 1969 as Rural Housing Improvement, 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 an integrated community development organization serving the rural northeast, Caribbean, and Worcester county region for housing assistance. RCAP Solutions is the Worcester County affiliate of The Regional Housing Network (RHN) of Massachusetts and the Northeast affiliate of the national Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) Network based in Washington D.C.

RCAP and LOR Foundation Introduce National “Rural Homecoming” to Celebrate Local Innovation and Opportunity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contacts:
Kinsey Brown, RCAP: kbrown@rcap.org, (202) 800-4127
Korenna Wilson, LOR: korenna@lorfoundation.org, (307) 690-0550

WASHINGTON, DC — (September 4, 2019) Rural communities across the country will celebrate the inaugural Rural Homecoming Oct. 18-20 by hosting events and engaging members of their community as part of a national movement that is rooted in local connections.

#RuralHomecoming was created this year to reconnect people to their hometowns and to kickstart a national dialogue on what being rural truly means. This fall, communities will come together to celebrate and give current and former residents a reason to reconnect with their
hometown and the innovation and unique attributes that make their community so special.

Rural Homecoming was developed by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) in partnership with the LOR Foundation, and today the organizations are launching the program by inviting any rural community across the country to participate, free of charge. Each community will receive a toolkit to inspire and guide communities interested in getting involved, including a social media and communications plan rooted in each community’s plan to participate.

“Rural Homecoming lets each community tell their own story,” said Nathan Ohle, CEO of RCAP. “It provides an opportunity to let communities take back their story and highlight what makes rural America so special by giving communities a reason to open their doors and reconnect people with their hometowns. Rural Homecoming empowers each community to take part in a national partnership with a locally-focused approach.”

“We’re all from somewhere,” said LaMonte Guillory, Chief Communications Officer of the LOR Foundation. “Cities or small towns, coastal or inland, East or West, plains or mountains, the concept of Rural Homecoming allows people to connect with their roots and think about where they came from. It also gives us a chance to talk about the innovation and accomplishments that are happening in rural America right now, of which there are many.”

To access and download the free toolkit, visit https://rcap.org/events/ruralhomecoming/. Follow #RuralHomecoming on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to join the movement. We want to hear from you. What makes your community special?

About RCAP: RCAP is a network of nonprofit organizations working to ensure rural and small communities throughout the United States have increased capacity to drive access to safe drinking water, sanitary wastewater, economic development and disaster recovery that leads to economic prosperity. To learn more about this work visit: rcap.org.

About LOR: LOR is a foundation that works to increase prosperity in the rural Mountain West, while preserving the character that defines these iconic places. Together with communities, they revitalize main streets, protect clean water supplies, preserve agricultural land and open space, and improve access to the outdoors and recreation. lorfoundation.org

¡Taller en una Caja!

RCAP Solutions Holds First Spanish “Workshop In A Box”

As part of our ongoing efforts to serve diverse, rural communities, RCAP Solutions held its first all-Spanish workshop in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico in June. This interactive workshop, which has been administered by our Technical Assistance Providers in English on a regular basis, helps operators and board members identify areas for improvement that are critical to success at their utility. The workshop focuses on ten key management areas of effectively managed water utilities, which make up a framework for a complete and well-rounded management approach.

The workshop materials, which were originally prepared by the USDA and the EPA, had been translated into Spanish by FEMA, RCAP Solutions, and the EPA, respectively. Due to the success of this first workshop, a local EPA staffer who facilitated the translation has requested additional workshops across the island, including a “Train the Trainer” session.

Among the more than two-dozen attendees were participants from eight different systems, including one from the municipal government, as well as Mr. Julio Chevres – a loan officer from the USDA Rural Development office in Caguas. RCAP Solutions’ six Technical Assistance Providers stationed in Puerto Rico also welcomed Sarah Buck, Director of Regionalization at our national affiliate, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership. Sarah helped our TAPs facilitate the training.

In addition, Yabucoa Mayor Rafael Surillo stopped by to thank the attendees and RCAP Solutions for their hard work. Mr. Surillo had previously requested technical assistance from the USDA after the devastation from Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017. Both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still feeling the effects of these storms, and RCAP Solutions continues to help communities mend their water infrastructure and administer solid waste clean-up.

Sarah Buck (Director of Regionalization, RCAP Inc), Yabucoa Mayor Rafael Surillo, and Josefa Torres-Olivo (Director of District III, RCAP Solutions)

To view all of the photos of this event, check out our Facebook page. Photo Credits: Carlos Velazquez-Figueroa & Sarah Buck

Free Water Operator Training Takes a Hands-On and Holistic Approach

This February, members of our state-side community resources team held a free operator training in Vermont. The training, which focused on disinfection and water quality monitoring, spanned four hours and gave attendees the chance to collect and test samples.

Mark Johnson, RCAP Solutions’ State Lead in Vermont, explained that “The class combined important theoretical concepts on disinfection with hands-on chlorine residual and coliform sampling exercises.”

This training, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, enabled Vermont operators to earn Training Contact Hours or THCs. These TCHs are accumulated so that water system operators can renew their certification, something that needs to be done every three years.

In addition to the hands-on experience, attendees were grateful for the networking opportunities, with one participant telling us, “Talking with Mark and other operators was informative. Good presentation.” Johnson continued on this, “Even for the most seasoned operator, the opportunity to improve on skills and compare technique with other operators is invaluable.”

Attendees hone their chlorine residual analysis technique and learn how to use both low and high range for analysis. High range chlorine analysis is not commonly practiced by operators, but it is an important skill for them to have if needed for emergency disinfection or to respond to a chlorine overfeed situation.

Make History Today | NH Gives

Donate to RCAP Solutions today and sponsor life-saving well water testing kits for New Hampshire residents.

Have you dreamed of making history? Of course, we all have. Now you have a chance to be a part of New Hampshire’s day of giving, and to top it off, your gift will go twice as far! Every donation will be matched by a very generous, anonymous donor.

Did you know that almost half of all New Hampshire residents get their drinking water from Private Wells? RCAP Solutions partners with many organizations to provide awareness, education, well assessment tools, testing kits, and treatment options in order to provide private well owners with safe drinking water.

With your donation of just $15, $30, $85 or more, you will help New Hampshire Residents by:

  • Providing free well water tests to residents in rural communities
  • Ensuring that families have water that’s free of harmful contaminants
  • Preventing cancer and other life-threatening diseases
  • Providing private well owners with safe drinking water
  • Giving small communities the resources to keep water healthy and clean

Starting at 6:00 PM on June 11, visit http://bit.ly/NHGives2019 and make your gift to support clean drinking water for New Hampshire residents. NH Gives ends at 6:00 PM on June 12.

No matter the size of the donation it will help provide small and rural communities with necessary resources to keep New Hampshire residents’ water healthy and clean.

Questions? If you have any questions or would like more information about private wells, visit www.rcapsolutions.org/private-wells/ or contact Martin Mistretta, New Hampshire Water Compliance Specialist, at Mmistretta@rcapsolutions.org or 603-312-7901.

Thank you in advance for your generosity to RCAP Solutions!

Operator Training and Community Engagement Workshop, Potluck Style

Kathy Rodgers, NH State Lead and Sarah Buck, Deputy Director, Community Resources

When you think of your typical water operator training for seasoned or prospective operators, you likely would envision a room set up classroom style at a utility, community space or hotel, filled with men and women in work boots, all on call, coffee in hand, trying to sit as close to the back of the room as possible, there to get the required continuing education hours needed to maintain their operation license. The word potluck would not even come to mind, but if done right, that promise of shared food, can bring together seasoned operators to assist a community concerned about their distribution system and water quality. This concept was successfully piloted at the Pepperidge Woods water system in Barrington, NH in November 2017, entitled: Distribution System & Community Engagement Workshop.

An animated exchange of information was had by all participants.

Small community public water systems are often run by volunteer operation committees within homeowners’ associations, Co-ops, small Village Districts, etc. Operation committees are a great way to keep costs down and retain institutional knowledge. However, when water quality diminishes, the community may need to seek outside resources to help identify and tackle their issues. That was the impetus for this unique and successful potluck training. Experienced operators would have an opportunity to earn continuing education units while utilizing their expertise to assist a community that, in this case, was experiencing low pressure and brown water.

This idea of an educational potluck with operators, community & board members, and TA providers may not work everywhere, but, in the places that it might, there are a few best practices to keep in mind to ensure a successful experience. First of all, you need a community sparkplug that will draw community residents to the event.   That sparkplug is someone who understands the needs of the community and is willing to partner with you to accomplish a specific goal.

In this case, Jane Astley, a member of the finance committee for Pepperidge Woods, worked with the board, the operation committee, neighboring system leaders, and residents to bring in RCAP to lead a training to educate them on their water quality and effective distribution maintenance methods. It was Jane’s idea to host a potluck. Jane understood the importance of an evening shared over food. Both community members and operators took ownership of the workshop by contributing home cooked food–good food, too. RCAP’s staff learned that NH water operators really know how to cook and can make a mean chowdah!

Bear in mind, if the workshop is offered to address a problem, then there will naturally be grievances that residents will want to express. To keep the workshop productive, create a very structured agenda and follow it closely. Revisit the agenda after each section and abide the times to keep things moving along. Assure the group that you will address their individual concerns and leave ample time for open discussion during the “practical” portion of the workshop. Start out with the basic training to enable a baseline of understanding for the general audience.

Research the community prior to the workshop. It is important to have a good grasp on the community needs to tailor the content. For the NH potluck, the RCAP trainer utilized the Area 1 RCAP/AWWA Distribution training materials. The primary audience was Pepperidge Woods’ operational committee and board members, which had limited to no hands-on operational experience. Knowing the distribution system components, water quality issues, and applied treatment enabled the slide deck and examples to be geared towards the host community, Pepperidge Woods.  Water quality topics such as hydrants and nitrification were brushed to the side as it didn’t pertain to them—only the topics most relevant to this system were covered during the workshop.

Another good practice is to establish a group agreement on productive conversation or a set of “ground rules” to avoid conflict and promote a more synergistic workshop. The recommendations provided in the agreement can include:

  • Share “air time.”
  • If you disagree, consider asking a question rather than arguing to prove your point.
  • It’s okay to disagree, but don’t personalize it. Stick to the issue, not the person who is disagreeing with you.
  • Speak up if the process doesn’t seem fair.
  • Speak for yourself, not for others and not for an entire group (use “I” statements).
  • Personal stories stay in the group unless we all agree we can share them outside of the group.
  • We all share responsibility for making the group productive.
  • Be respectful and use respectful language.
  • Respect the facilitator’s role.
  • Listen first

 

Allow the community to break into small groups with the seasoned operators in attendance to help identify issues that they have encountered. Bring the group back together to report out and post the identified problems. In this case, brown water and low pressure were the predominant concerns. Then break back into small groups to discuss what could be causing the problem. Again, bring the group back together to outline potential root causes.

Community members listen and share ideas.

During the workshop, the experienced operators were eager to share several potential reasons that could contribute to the brown water and low-pressure issues. A lot of these reasons had not been previously discussed. After further trainer led discussion, the group was able to agree on the most probable root causes and discussed how to address those concerns moving forward.

The community was delighted to have new perspectives and ideas on how to work through their existing and any future issues.  The operators were more than happy to help and the whole group was so entrenched in the process that nobody was in a hurry to leave. Conversations and expressions of appreciation were still going on at least 15 minutes after the workshop’s close.  Ideally, you want to make sure that all attendees feel welcomed, are engaged, and are able to get something valuable out of the experience. The NH workshop evaluations confirmed that both the operators and community enjoyed this fresh style of training and found great value in the experience. The NH RCAP trainer is now working to develop a workshop using the same operator and community engagement potluck approach to introduce digital mapping to another small system.

When is a Bridge an Asset for a Water Utility?

Erick Toledo, Water Specialist, New England and Jenna Day, Community Development Specialist, New England

When is a bridge an asset to be considered in your water system’s financial planning? One small system, the Leino Park Water District, located in Westminster, Massachusetts, is an example of just that. The residents and water board knew they had to do something to replace this crumbling structure that was integral to servicing their community. Its value was always clear to the sixty-five households for whom it was the only right of way, but unfortunately it was not a priority for local or state highway funding. One would not normally categorize this as a water system asset, but out of desperation, ingenuity was born.

Bridge conditions had become treacherous.

After nearly a decade of patching the physical structure and countless meetings with town and state officials, the Leino Park Water District board members were told the sixty-five homes served by the bridge were too few to qualify for traditional road and bridge funding sources. Then the Leino Park Water District Board took matters into their own hands. They secured clear ownership to the bridge and land on which it is built and approached USDA Rural Development (RD) program staff to discuss their options. The had a good relationship with RD, having successfully completed loan repayments on a past water infrastructure project, so they figured they would see if they could apply for funding assistance from federal infrastructure dollars to replace the aged bridge.

Unfortunately, what looked like a promising standard application process that the system had been through before has since become more complicated and ground to a halt. RCAP Solutions received a referral from the MA/CT/RI state RD office in November 2017 to assist in the application process. Under a very tight deadline, RCAP Solutions’ staff completed the required Environmental Assessment (EA) to expedite Leino Park’s application for the replacement of the bridge. RCAP Solutions staff completed this report for free under their USDA Technitrain grant within three months. This service is often something systems pay for out of pocket—but it is an eligible work product under several RCAP’s funding sources. If your system is struggling to find funding for your required EA or Preliminary Engineering Report (PER)—contact your local RCAP and/or RD office. Like in the case of Leino Park, if your local RCAP has the expertise, they could assist and provide these services free of charge. RD also has pre-development planning grants available for low income systems that can cover these application development costs: https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/water-waste-disposal-predevelopment-planning-grants.

Current bridge conditions.

Another option is the Community Engineering Corps (CEC), the domestic version of Engineers Without Borders. They have a very simple application process—although they mostly provide free engineering services for low income systems—they consider each application one on one to determine need and eligibility: http://www.communityengineeringcorps.org/.

The Board of the Leino Park Water District submitted their USDA RD funding application and though there have been a few setbacks, they are confident that funds will soon be awarded, maybe even this federal fiscal year. RCAP Solutions, the local RD staff and the Leino Park Board worked closely together to accomplish this. The existing bridge, pilings, and concrete abutments will be removed and replaced with a timber structure, designed, engineered, and built on-site that will meet or exceed state/ local specifications. Now that they own the right of way, they can plan to maintain this community/water system asset into the future. Fixing it now will ensure public safety and will allow local municipal and emergency vehicles easy access to the 65 homes if needed that they currently do not have.

A Vermont Village Looks Ahead

By Mark Johnson, Vermont State Lead

It’s late in the evening, and the monthly meeting of the Prudential Committee has been over for hours. Lisa Bowden, treasurer and clerk of the Barnet Fire District #2, is tired and frustrated. She should have been home hours ago, but an issue with the chlorine pump at the well pumphouse is keeping her awake. Lisa is used to sending out bills, balancing the District’s too-thin checkbook, and chasing customers down for delinquent payments; replacing the diaphragm on a chemical feed pump is not in her proverbial toolkit. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a new pump diaphragm in her actual toolkit, either.

A board member points out where a critical water main crosses a river in the village. The pipe has been undermined due to erosion from recent flooding and has become a source of concern for the community.

RCAP Solutions had attended the meeting out of concern that two of the three Prudential Committee members of Barnet Fire District #2 (BFD2), a special district that manages the water system, sidewalks, and the few streetlights in the tiny Vermont village, had thoughts of stepping down. Having worked with the community years before, RCAP Solutions stayed in touch with the system and knew that it was a critical time for the village. Volunteering to attend meetings, make difficult financial decisions, and mind the day to day operation of the water system seemed to be getting old for members of the Prudential Committee. Not the only thing getting old, as Lisa pointed out. “I’d hate to look at the average age in this village,” she said during a recent meeting. “We’re not getting any younger.”

In a village of a few hundred people – the system has just 61 connections – finding the right people to lead the Fire District and figure out how to fund critical infrastructure improvements wasn’t necessarily the issue. The issue was finding anyone at all. Fortunately for the village, they may have finally found the right people. For months, Lisa had pleaded for residents to attend meetings and to get involved with the water system in her regular emails to customers. And there were plenty of emails, because Lisa religiously kept customers up to date on the latest in a long string of water main breaks, boil water advisories, and water usage restrictions. Then, a resident who lives a few doors down from the pumphouse, Jon Carpenter, decided that he’d be willing to step into the role of Chairperson for the Prudential Committee. David Stevenson, a holdover from the previous Committee, agreed to be trained to help monitor the system and record chlorine residuals under the tutelage of the system’s certified water operator. Jay Sprout, a resident and pastor at a local church, decided that he’d be willing to add his voice to the three-person governing body.

Despite recent source water and treatment plant improvements made by BFD2, maintaining regulatory compliance is a real challenge – as it is for many rural communities. The water system, which serves about 205 customers, had been under a boil-water advisory since 2004 due to long-term source water deficiencies. In 2014 members of the community expressed a desire to acquire the system from its private owner, and RCAP Solutions facilitated several steps in the process. The goal of the purchase was to give the community more control over the fate of its water system. As a publicly owned water system, BFD2 would now be able to access federal funding sources for long overdue improvements.

In February of 2017, BFD2 completed a major source water improvement project, financed in part by the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund. This should have marked an important milestone for the community, as they were able to lift the boil water advisory following the improvements and installation of a new disinfection process. It was not the end of infrastructure concerns, however; frequent distribution system failures were crippling the system’s operating budget. Well pumps work overtime, the chlorine supply dwindles, and another tab is opened with the local contractor to start digging. Replacing a few feet of pipe at a time is unsustainable, and the Prudential Committee knows it. The contractor, who has enabled BFD2 to continue providing pressurized, potable water by allowing BFD2 to pay when they can – knows it. Maybe most importantly, the customers are beginning to realize that a long-term solution is needed.

To address the issues in the distribution system, RCAP Solutions provided an action plan to the board. The plan calls for taking advantage of available state resources, such as an asset management grant, to better plan for future needs. In the process, BFD2 could prioritize distribution system improvements – including the replacement of a critical, aging water main crossing a river in the village. Meanwhile, the Prudential Committee is taking advantage of grant-funded leak detection services and is working with RCAP Solutions to increase revenue. In addition to securing a rate adjustment and looking at available planning grants, though, they will need to work on another critical task – gaining the support and trust of the community. For a system this size, taking on more debt – which requires community support in the form of a bond vote – will be a likely scenario considering the lack of reserves and mounting infrastructure concerns. For BFD2, it is the financially prudent approach; annual repairs are comparable to, and occasionally more than, another bond payment. With interest rates on the rise, a project that is “necessary and inevitable”, in the words of a local USDA representative, can’t be started soon enough.

For the Prudential Committee, it is more important than ever that they build on the achievements of the source water improvement project. Unfortunately, operational issues with the new

RCAP Solutions staff gives a thumbs-up after successfully restoring an adequate chlorine residual in the drinking water system.

chlorination system, coupled with the lack of local capacity for diagnosing and resolving those issues, contributed to a violation in late 2017 for failing to maintain adequate microbial treatment. Under the Groundwater Rule, the system is required to maintain a minimum chlorine residual to ensure adequate disinfection. Avoiding an additional violation would be critical; every violation or misstep for the Prudential Committee – especially one that results in another boil-water advisory- reduces the likelihood that they will be able to gain the community’s trust. Without the trust of the customers, it’s unlikely that they will move ahead with the bond vote necessary for future improvements.

Scanning the shelves of the Fire District’s pumphouse, Lisa and RCAP Solutions TAP, Mark Johnson, finally found a rebuild kit that would work for a backup pump. The chlorine residual was re-established, a violation avoided, and Lisa had received her first lesson on rebuilding a chemical metering pump. In the weeks that followed, RCAP Solutions provided practical guidance to the system’s operator and treatment plant engineer on how to improve the chemical feed system. RCAP Solutions has also provided the system’s board members with the knowledge they need to maintain compliance with state and federal regulations.

A former dairy farmer, Jon Carpenter, has brought his dedication and work ethic to help solve some of the Fire District’s most pressing issues. David Stevenson’s watchful eyes have kept the Prudential Committee from having to request a site visit from the certified water operator every time a minor issue pops up, which is helpful. Even though the operator keeps close tabs on the system, she lives over an hour away and BFD2 can’t pay for too many emergency visits. Jay Sprout’s common-sense approach to system management has already started to pay dividends; meetings are run efficiently, and discussion stays on topic.

Lisa Bowden, on the other hand, continues to claim that she’s ready for a break from her duties. Whether it’s trudging up to the storage tank in a snowstorm, communicating critical details about the system to customers, performing her duties as tax collector, or trying to act interested in the intricacies of pump diaphragms, for years Lisa has been a passionate advocate for the village. But Lisa can’t do it much longer. Nor does she want to, as she tells anyone who will listen. “I’m too old for this stuff,” she pointed out as she locked up the pumphouse, ready for a vacation that is long overdue.