Water Talk at Meadowlark

By: Mark Court, Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems

First published in Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems magazine, The Wyoming Connection

Who said work isn’t fun? I enjoy the many projects and challenges that come with this line of work. One of my favorites, though, is when I get to go into our schools and talk about water with the kids. Afterall, they are the future water and wastewater plant operator, distribution and collection system operators, engineers, regulators etc. In fact, they are the future that will try to figure out how to fix the mistake created by previous generations.

That is exactly what we did. I asked to speak about water and wastewater issues that impact our daily Meadowlark Elementary School with Ms. Kristen Behrends and her sixth-grade class at Meadowlark Elementary School in Cheyenne.

At the beginning of the class, I demonstrated what happens when you flush different grades of paper down the toilet by using jars filled with water and mentioned the many things that come through the headworks at wastewater treatment plants. I had my volunteers place their paper samples in the jar, secure the lids and shake them up for a few seconds. They seemed quite amazed that only the toilet paper disintegrated from the project.

We spent time discussing groundwater and surface waters in Wyoming, as well as where Cheyenne gets its drinking water. We discussed how much water Wyoming is allotted per drainage each year and that the rest of our water flows into our neighboring states for their many uses. We talked about how much water it takes to grow specific crops that we produce here in Wyoming. We discussed how landfills and wastewater issues impact our water sources as well. Finally, we briefly talked about radionuclides and trichloroethylene that are concerns in Wyoming’s groundwaters.

These issues were, of course difficult to discuss at a level that eleven and twelve-year-old kids could understand, but they were very engaged with the topics.

There were questions, and we had lots of fun. Ms. Behrends was glad that I was able to come in and to visit and asked if I could do another talk during the fourth quarter. She also stated that by me teaching in her classroom, it gave her discussion points on water for future classes.

Project Rebound Delivers Essential PPE to Marion County, Kentucky

On Monday May 11, 2020, Project Rebound delivered masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant to local small businesses in Marion County, Kentucky. The state will begin a process to reopen businesses throughout the state in May and June. The Governor of Kentucky outlined specific businesses to reopen safely and effectively during the initial stages.

These businesses, public buildings and spaces, and churches can only open if they meet the Governor’s ten rules. One of the ten rules requires that certain PPE must be used. PPE consists of masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant. Of course, these three items must be used every day and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Governor strongly suggested masks to be worn in public on May 11 in addition rolling out his plan to reopen the Kentucky economy in phases on specific dates. With requirements of having specific supplies in stock and in use, some small businesses don’t necessarily have the capacity, staff, and resources to assemble these materials required to open and operate.

In response to the Governor’s demands, members of the city council, Industrial Foundation and Lebanon Water Works formed a collaboration to help small businesses. The collaboration, known as Project Rebound, planned to distribute PPE to small businesses, niche industries and vulnerable populations within Marion County.

Project Rebound is made possible by the City of Lebanon, Marion County Fiscal Court, Lebanon/Marion County Industrial Foundation, Marion County Chamber of Commerce, Lebanon Water Works?, and Beam Suntory. Together, they purchased a stock of disposable masks that would be available to small businesses to help them gain the necessary PPE. Beam Suntory supplied an abundance of hand sanitizer. Lebanon Water Works utilizes Sodium Hypochlorite to disinfect the drinking water they treat and was confident that they could also supply a solution to help businesses get back to work. They were able to cut the product that they normally receive from Water Solutions Unlimited to a 6% solution and package it in 5-gallon jugs for distribution.

Project Rebound contacted Central Kentucky Community Action, the Lebanon Senior Center, Beautify Loretto, Loretto Mayor, Raywick Mayor, and Bradfordsville Mayor to distribute hand sanitizer and masks, along with hot meals to seniors in Marion County.

On Monday, May 11, the collaboration distributed these masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant to local small businesses. In all, the multiple entities involved have purchased 16,000 masks, produced the disinfectant, and obtained the hand sanitizer as a generous gift from Beam Suntory. They anticipate three more distributions to businesses and the vulnerable population.

The first disbursement consisted of 6,000 masks being delivered, with more than 5,000 going to 146 small businesses in Marion County. After the distribution from Project Rebound, over 1,000 employees had the necessary PPE in place to return to work. Along with helping the workforce, 500 masks were delivered to seniors in the general areas of Lebanon, Raywick, Loretto, Calvary, and Bradfordsville. These masks are available in time for the opening of professional offices, car dealerships, and non-essential industries.

On May 20, 2,000 masks will be delivered in time for retail stores and places of worship; but prior to the opening of restaurants, barber shops and salons. In the last delivery, 8,000 masks will be delivered on, or before, June 20. This will be around the time of the opening of childcare facilities and youth sports. Additional masks will be available for any business or vulnerable populations who need it.

The small businesses of Marion County, Kentucky would likely not be able to meet the demands of the Governor prior to the reopening date. Project Rebound has helped countless small businesses, and in turn, will help the Kentucky economy bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Special Report: AWIA Risk and Resilience Assessment Checklist

The National Rural Water Association is pleased to announce that the partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency and NRWA has produced a simplified checklist for small systems to utilize for remaining compliant with the risk and resilience assessments under America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (AWIA).

This guidance is intended for small community water systems (CWS’s) serving greater than 3,300 but less than 50,000 people.  Community water systems serving less than 3,300 people are not required to conduct risk and resilience assessments under AWIA, however, it is recommended that these systems use this, or other guidance, to learn how to conduct risk and resilience assessments and address threats from malevolent acts and natural hazards that threaten safe drinking water.

What are the Risk and Resilience Assessments Requirements in AWIA?

AWIA requires community water systems serving more than 3,300 people to assess the risks to and resilience of the system to malevolent acts and natural hazards.  The law specifies water system assets that the assessment must address. These assets are listed in Tables 1a through 10b in the Risk and Resilience Assessment.

Community public drinking water systems must certify to EPA that the system conducted the assessment not later than the following dates:

  • March 31, 2020 for systems serving 100,000 or more,
  • December 31, 2020 for systems serving 50,000 or more but less than 100,000,
  • June 30, 2021 for system serving more than 3,300 but less than 50,000.

National Rural Water Association (NRWA) is the leading technical assistance provider for public drinking water and for providing immediate on-site emergency response in the United States. NRWA is proud to have provided the input and assistance through partnership with EPA to develop the small system checklist for risk and resilience requirements to keep our nation’s public drinking water safe and ready to respond.

For further assistance, contact your State Rural Water Association to provide the on-site assistance needed to understand, perform, and comply with these risk and resilience requirements and to provide on-site recommendations to keep your water system compliant and operating smoothly. As the nation’s only genuine Circuit Riders, your State Rural Water Association is prepared to assist you in any way and at any time.

Download Risk and Resilience Assessment Checklist

Tennessee Association of Utility Districts Assists Community After Devastating Tornado

Written by: Johnny Walker & Kevin Gilliam of TAUD

At approximately 1:52 a.m. on March 3, 2020, a deadly EF-4 tornado touched down and ravaged several neighborhoods in Putnam County, Tennessee, particularly in the Double Springs Utility District service area. The tornado took several lives in this community and completely devastated a number of neighborhoods to rubble. After the tornado passed, residents were out checking on their neighbors, assessing if medical help was needed and attempting to account for every person in the area.

Double Springs Utility personnel, Steve Redman, Caleb Mackie, Carl Knight, Robin Johnson, Jenifer Moore and Angie Byers, were out in the immediate aftermath making sure that the threat from their water utility, as well as other utilities, would not cause further harm to the citizens. Making sure to get electrical power and gas systems turned off in these areas was top priority.

The DSUD crew continued to work through the night into the morning hours of March 4, cutting off water services and looking for water main breaks. When TAUD’s Middle Tennesse Circuit Rider Johnny Walker and Training Specialist Kevin Gilliam arrived at Double Springs that morning, they learned that the crew had made quite a bit of headway and already had a plan in action to stop the loss of water. As soon as the tornado left the area, the primary master meter feeding that section of the service area was dumping over 1,200 gallons of water per minute into their system and they reduced this to just over 700 gallons per minute.

Utility personnel worked tirelessly throughout the day, cutting off valves at homes that had been destroyed, as well as branch lines. Johnny and Kevin spent the day with working with DSUD employees Caleb Mackie and Steve Redman; offering ideas and advice, but primarily verifying and assisting to implement the plan DSUD had already laid out.

By that afternoon, the problem was isolated to an area along Highway 70 that had been hit especially hard. At that point the crew was able to reduce the leak to around 600 gallons per minute, leaving only a minimal number of customers without water. The Cookeville Water Department sent personnel to assist in audibly searching for leaks, but excessive traffic noise hampered their efforts. It was decided to try again early the next morning when traffic would be lighter, giving Cookeville’s leak detection crew the best chance of hearing the leak. Their assistance was amazing to experience and they were able to effectively isolate the leak to approximately one half-mile stretch of Highway 70.

In the pre-dawn hours, the team investigated an area of suspect where two large trees had been uprooted, however; the listening device did not pick up any sounds that could be discerned as a leak. Efforts were then focused on the creek that flowed under Highway 70 and beside the Echo Valley Pool.

With everyone involved beginning to think the leak could be in the creek, isolation valves were installed on both sides of the creek. The 6-inch main was an AC line installed in 1962. Cookeville’s crew worked expertly to excavate the main and install the valves. Since water was fed by the parent system from east and west, if the leak was in the creek, it could effectively be valved off and service quickly restored. Once the valves were installed, a trip to the master meter revealed the system was still losing approximately 600 GPM.

The team pressed on and revisited the uprooted trees they had inspected earlier that morning. By climbing out onto the two fallen trees and looking through a small gap between them, water could be seen flowing into a broken down culvert going under the highway. A grab sample and a chlorine powder pillow showed the pink color all were hoping to see. The leak had been found! Working skillfully, the crew removed the debris, uncovered the line, and spliced in a section of PVC. Another trip to the master meter indicated normal flow. After many, many hours of effort, the situation was finally resolved! Once the leak was repaired, dead end lines were flushed, pressure was restored system-wide, and customers were visibly grateful to the Double Springs Utility District crew for their tireless efforts.

The following day, Kevin returned to the area to check on other water systems supplied by Cookeville Water Department. He assessed that the systems were doing well with minimal to no damage.

Double Springs Utility District employees had been on the ground for many hours without sleep, and were all mentally and physically exhausted. Nevertheless, they worked relentlessly to slow the leaks and swiftly restore service to their customers.

“Our hats are off to all of you for your perseverance through such a very difficult time in your community,” said the TAUD staff.

Now that some time has passed since this tragic event, we can reflect and see what we already knew; there are many wonderful people in the state of Tennessee and beyond. There were hundreds of volunteers on the ground throughout the early stages of this disaster. While onsite assisting Double Springs, Johnny received several calls from water systems, some as far as 100 miles away, offering to send crews to help in any way that they could. It was so encouraging to see and is another excellent example of our systems helping each other in times of need.

TAUD would like to recognize the many utility personnel that stood ready to assist. There were numerous calls from neighboring water systems, as well as systems from several counties away that were just waiting for the call to action from the Double Springs crew. They would have come without hesitation to the aid of their utility family. We are all so blessed to have such a wonderful extended family in this utility industry- and Tennessee’s sure is one of the best!

National Rural Water Association honors the life and accomplishments of a Rural Water Hero, Pat Williams.

National Rural Water Association honors the life and accomplishments of a Rural Water Hero, Pat Williams. His years of service and commitment to the Rural Water Industry will be remembered and celebrated for years to come.

From California Rural Water Association Executive Director Dan Demoss:

Greetings to you all…

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to let you all know that CRWA recently lost our friend, mentor, and long term Board member Pat Williams. Pat passed away Saturday April 11th, a few days after his 52nd Birthday and was put to rest on Thursday April 23rd.

Pat is survived by his wife Elise, daughters Rebecca and Raquel, and his son Ryan. Pat served on the CRWA board for 25 years and has spent the last 8 years representing CRWA on the National Rural Water Association board and was elected to serve on the Executive committee 3 years ago. Pat was the General Manager of Herlong PUD in the Northeast part of California and was known for his ability to get projects funded and completed. Pat also served on the NRWA’s Legislative committee and was well known by California Congressman and Staffers.

Pat’s commitment to the rural communities across California and the country was demonstrated by his never ending support of infrastructure funding programs and training and technical assistance programs directed toward rural communities. Pat was instrumental along with other board members in the development of the Sacramento CRWA training center as well as insurance programs and membership services.

Pat was a friend to all and truly embodied the Rural Water Spirit. There will be a celebration of life later on this summer or early fall.

We encourage you to donate to the Children’s scholarship fund, please do so at the address below:

 

The Williams Children Scholarship Fund

Sierra Central Credit Union

3005 Riverside Dr

Susanville, Ca 96130

1-800-222-7228

 

Mailing address for cards

Elise Williams

PO Box 1013

Janesville, Ca 96114

 

Thank you & Sincerely,

Dan DeMoss

Executive Director

California Rural Water Association

NRWA Conducts Rapid Needs Assessment of Critical Impacts of COVID-19

National Rural Water Association recently conducted a national survey of small and rural utility systems. NRWA estimates small water and wastewater systems will lose $998 million in revenue by mid-July.  This loss in revenue will not be recovered by utilities and does not include emergency operational costs such as staging additional shifts, isolating staff, modifying procedures for regulatory compliance, purchasing PPE, and additional equipment for remote work.

The survey was completed by 4,636 water and wastewater utilities across 50 states & U.S. Territories. Collectively, these systems serve 29,016,515 people and 1,386,787 businesses. Small systems (serving less than 10,000 people) made up 93% of survey respondents.  32% of these systems were able to forecast revenue loss over the next three months.  The average revenue loss of these small systems was $56,474.

Small drinking water systems comprise 91% of all U.S. systems.  here are currently 45,227 small community water systems serving 10,000 persons or less out of a total of 49,602 systems, according to EPA data. The potential financial impact assumes 32% of America’s 45,227 small water utilities are affected.

Publicly-available federal information on wastewater utilities is less certain. NRWA assumed wastewater systems will bear similar costs as drinking water utilities. Approximately 10,000 small wastewater systems exist in the U.S.

The National Rural Water Association urges Congress to take action now to include water and wastewater systems in the next stimulus bill and/or take independent action to ensure their sustainability and financial solvency.  Public water and wastewater utilities are essential to protect public health and the environment.  Small and rural communities have done their part to meet the public’s needs during the COVID-19 pandemic by maintaining and restoring customer access to services regardless of payment.  They need assistance from Congress now to protect the public they serve.

To view the results of the survey please click here.

USDA Rural Utilities Service, Water and Environment Programs declare Circuit Riders Essential Service

In response to the Presidential Declaration of a National Emergency concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak, USDA Rural Utilities Service, Water and Environmental Programs declared the Circuit Rider Drinking Water Technical Assistance Contract to be an essential government service.

Presidential Policy Directive PPD-21 identifies the water and wastewater systems sector as being a “critical infrastructure sector,” defined by Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, as “sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”

NRWA is named in DHS’s Water and Wastewater Sector-Specific Plan as a Critical Infrastructure Partner and is a member of the Sector Coordinating Council.

The USDA WEP Circuit Rider contract is a critical component of the federal government’s ability to respond to the needs of rural systems, especially during emergencies and disasters in which potable water supplies and clean sanitation are at risk. At the state and local level, Circuit Riders are first and second responders, working collaboratively with emergency management response teams. For example, the Circuit Rider contract is included among excepted contractor services during a lapse in federal government operations. The declaration of this national emergency requires the continued provision of these services.

For these reasons, the U.S. Government deemed Circuit Riders and essential support staff, as determined by the NRWA, to be essential and directed NRWA to continue performing all duties as provided for in the contract, with no lapse in services, during this national emergency.

During this time Circuit Riders are authorized to provide assistance remotely when possible, to include the use of telephone and web-based technology, to mitigate public health and safety risks. In emergency situations Circuit Riders will still provide on-site assistance. Any on-site assistance will be carried out within the social distancing guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The public health and well-being of our nation’s rural residents depends on uninterrupted access to safe drinking water. Rural water systems provide critically important, life-saving infrastructure by providing safe drinking water and clean sanitation at millions of homes across the United States and territories.

National and State Rural Water Associations are dedicated to ensuring the continuity of drinking water services and wastewater treatment in rural areas during this time of crisis.

Special Report from NRWA CEO

These are trying times for our nation and for the people who work at our public water and wastewater utilities. Without a doubt, Americans rely on safe and clean water being provided to their homes. Water utilities provide an essential service every day of the year; now, that service is necessary for people isolated in their homes to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small and rural systems generally have less staff and will be impacted the worst if their workforce becomes infected. The National Rural Water Association and each of our State Affiliates have instituted emergency measures to ensure the safety of staff, enabling them to continue providing assistance to water and wastewater utilities, and retaining the ability to respond onsite to emergencies. Be assured your State Rural Water Association is there for you.

At NRWA, we are in constant communication with USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and members of Congress. Our D.C. staff is working hard, advocating on your behalf as resources are considered and developed to assist and inform our nation’s utilities of the latest information and progress of the virus.

We encourage our utility members to reach out to neighboring systems and develop informal mutual aid networks in case critical utility staff are unable to perform their duties. At this point we do not know what the impact of this new virus will be and hardships it will cause. We all must be prepared to assure continuity of services, no matter the scenario. It is in the best interest of each utility, the public and our nation.

We must all be prepared, be informed and take all precautions necessary to protect our workforce and our families. There is everything to gain and nothing to lose by taking these precautions. Our industry motto is: Quality on Tap–Our Commitment, Our Profession. Our collective commitment should be to stay healthy and remain available to provide essential water services during the coming days, weeks and possibly months of this national health emergency.

My commitment to you is that your State Rural Water Associations are there for you with resources, assistance and emergency response capabilities. Working together, being proactive and taking all necessary precautions for health protection will be the winning combination to overcome this virus. I have total confidence America’s water professionals will act as unsung heroes–just as they have throughout my 35 years working with Rural Water.

Thank you for all you do,

Sam Wade

CEO, National Rural Water Association

NRWA Statement on the COVID-19 Virus

The National Rural Water Association continues to monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and recommends all water and wastewater utilities review the best and latest information on the following trusted websites:

At this time, existing safe management techniques in both drinking water and sanitation apply to COVID-19.  Extra measures are not needed. In particular, disinfection treatment processes will facilitate more rapid die-off of the COVID-19 virus. Provision of safe water, sanitation and hygienic conditions play an essential role in protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Frequent and proper hand washing is one of the most important prevention measures for COVID-19.  Good and consistently applied hygiene in communities, homes, schools, workplaces, marketplaces and health care facilities will further help to prevent human-to-human transmission of COVID-19.

This outbreak continues to evolve and information changes daily. Similar to past viral outbreaks of this magnitude, COVID-19 is something to be taken very seriously. NRWA will continue to monitor the situation and is following the guidance of leading health authorities. Any impact to technical assistance, training programs, meeting and/or conferences will be posted prominently at https://nrwa.org/initiatives/covid-19/.

The National Rural Water Association (NRWA) is the country’s largest public drinking water and sanitation supply organization with over 31,000 small and rural community members dedicated to drinking water quality, environmental protection and public health protection. Safe drinking water and sanitation are generally recognized as the most essential public health, public welfare, and civic necessities.

NRWA PFAS Lawsuit Statement

On Tuesday February 25th, the National Rural Water Association filed a federal class action lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers. NRWA took this action for a simple reason: their rural water and wastewater systems are not responsible for manufacturing or introducing these man-made chemical compounds into communities and environments. They should not have to bear the burden for the costs of testing, treatment and remediation and then having to pass these significant costs on to their customers. Customers who include the more vulnerable populations such as the elderly, disabled, and low-income families who are already struggling with limited financial resources.

NRWA is a non-profit utility membership association representing 31,000 rural and small community rural water and wastewater utilities. NRWA is comprised of 49 state affiliates representing all 50 states because Rhode Island and Connecticut are combined as one. Its rural utility operations specialist board members and local leaders are mission driven: a mission of providing safe, clean and affordable water and wastewater services to their customers.

Therefore, after a thorough review of the current and potential impact to our members and the rural & small populations they serve, the National Rural Water Association Board of Directors determined NRWA’s membership needs to be represented in any legal settlement that may be forthcoming.

This lawsuit is a first for the National Rural Water Association. There are 49,731 community water supplies in the nation; 91% serve less than 10,000 population and 54% serve less than 500 population. These are not the type of entities looking to file a lawsuit, but Sam Wade, CEO of the NRWA points out, “these smaller communities lack the resources to participate individually and hold those accountable for the damages they have caused. Representing the membership in any settlement is an obligation of the association.”

These drinking water and wastewater utilities are the foundation for public health, environmental protection and for the economy. Rural America is where our food, energy, and natural resources come from and for impacted communities, their reputations are at stake as their missions are being comprised. The United States is one of a very few countries, that where upon entry, you are not warned about drinking the water.

Contamination of our nation’s water supplies from known hazardous chemicals is not acceptable in any way, shape, form or fashion. A clear message has been sent with this lawsuit: the nation’s small utilities will no longer sit idly by as victims with the burden of paying for the testing, treatment and remediation of known hazardous chemical contamination placed on the backs of the citizens they serve.

Systems impacted or that may be potentially impacted are strongly encouraged to register at https://nrwa.org/initiatives/pfas/ for more information or to contact the legal team:

Paul Napoli, of Counsel

516-639-6909

pnapoli@napolilaw.com