EPA Announces Partnership to Reduce Childhood Lead Exposure at Schools and Childcare Facilities

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to further support efforts that reduce lead in drinking water at schools and child care facilities. In recognition of Children’s Health Month, the commitments made in this MOU will provide safer and healthier environments for children across the country.

“The Trump Administration is prioritizing efforts to identify and reduce lead contamination while ensuring children impacted by lead exposure are getting the support and care they need,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This MOU supports our Lead Action Plan and shows our commitment to work with federal and non-federal partners to ‘get the lead out’ of drinking water to the greatest extent possible.”

This new MOU provides a framework for a coordinated approach between critical partners across the federal government, tribes, water utilities and the public health community. The commitments of this new MOU support the Lead Action Plan, which provides a blueprint for reducing lead exposure and associated harms by working with a range of stakeholders, including states, tribes and local communities, along with businesses, property owners and parents.

“While America’s drinking water is very safe and the occurrence of lead in drinking water is rare, we want to stay vigilant in protecting the children in our schools and child care facilities from any potential occurrence of lead in drinking water,” stated NRWA Deputy CEO Matthew Holmes. “Rural and small communities are committed to collaborate with our federal partners, especially the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and USDA Rural Development, to implement the national 3Ts initiative to help empower the public on exactly how to protect schools and child care facilities from possible drinking water lead contamination.”

“My priority is for our BIE students to receive a quality education and study in safe facilities and environments, one critical environmental factor is safe drinking water. Indian Affairs is actively working to ensure that children in our schools are provided with safe drinking water,” said Tara Sweeney, Assistant Secretary- Indian Affairs.

“ASDWA’s members will be on the front lines in working with state public health and education agencies on lead testing in schools and child care centers, which is the first step to reducing lead exposure in these facilities. ASDWA, whose role it is to convene state drinking water agencies together to tackle common drinking water issues is well qualified and positioned to help, and we’re very eager to get started,” said Alan Roberson, Executive Director, Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA).

The MOU:
• Highlights each partner’s commitment to work to help ensure that children in schools and childcare facilities are provided with safe drinking water.
• Encourages supporting activities that provide education on health concerns associated with lead in drinking water; assists in the development of a lead testing program utilizing the EPA’s 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in School and Child Care Facilities; and helps schools and child care facilities establish a sustainable and effective lead in drinking water testing program.
• Promotes collaboration in the development of materials, training and tools to assist schools and child care facilities in reducing lead in drinking water.
• Allows for better identification of appropriate networks, associations and organizations to partner with to develop communication materials for schools and child care facilities.

To read the MOU and related information visit: https://www.epa.gov/safewater/3Ts

Since the 1970s, the United States has made tremendous progress in lowering children’s blood lead levels. Despite the overall decline of blood lead levels over time, lead remains a significant public health concern for some children because of persistent lead hazards in the environment. Recognizing that children spend large portions of their days in schools and child care facilities, EPA suggests that these facilities implement programs for reducing lead in drinking water as part of their overall plans for maintaining healthy learning environments.

EPA Administrator Addresses Agency Goals with Water

EPA Administrator Wheeler delivers keynote at WaterPro Conference 2019

U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler delivered the keynote presentation to kick off Opening Session at the 2019 WaterPro Conference in Nashville, Tennessee with more than 2,100 in attendance.

Administrator Wheeler addressed NRWA members about the agency’s goals both domestically and internationally to elevate the importance of water issues and commended Rural Water on the differences they are making in the water and wastewater industry.

“On infrastructure we estimate that more than 700 billion dollars are needed to modernize the United States water infrastructure over the next 20 years,” Wheeler stated.

When the EPA was founded almost 50 years ago, 40 percent of our water systems failed to meet EPA’s standards every single day. Wheeler proudly went on to inform the audience that of the 50,000 community water systems across the country, 91 percent of these systems serve communities of less than 10,000.

He continued with updates on the EPA programs that water and wastewater systems can utilize to improve their infrastructure and water technologies as well as the three key areas EPA is focused on assisting with are regulatory certainty, workforce development and financial assistance.

“Regulations need to keep pace with science and realities on the ground,” Wheeler stressed. “PFAS is a major concern right now, and EPA is working to develop new technologies and treatment options to remove PFAS from drinking water and to remediate soil.” Along with this research and development, they are looking into the ricks of PFAS in bio-solids, monitoring options and developing a PFAS risk communication tool box that includes materials that states, tribes and local partners can use to effectively communicate with the public.

“In the United States we have come to rely on safe drinking water at the turn of a tap. It can be easy to take this blessing for granted. But the strength of local economies and public health depend on the dedicated support of drinking water, wastewater and storm water systems. More specifically the depend on the people who operate them, the water workforce,” Wheeler commented.

One third of water operators will be eligible to retire in the next ten years. The water workforce protects the investments in our water infrastructure. A major challenge right now is developing and retaining new water and wastewater operators, and right now technology is outpacing the training. EPA is working with their federal counterparts to support water workforce training and development.

“We appreciate your work on this effort, especially the National Rural Water Association’s Apprenticeship Program,” Wheeler said.

In closing, Wheeler announced a new grant program to be offered, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act) authorizes a new EPA grant program specifically designed to help disadvantaged communities to improve their drinking water. The first round for applications for this grant will be opened later this month.

“Every day you and your colleagues provide clean and safe water to millions of Americans. There are few callings as noble and as significant as that,” Wheeler said, “you deserve greater recognition and least of all you deserve our thanks.”

Other highlights of the Opening Session included NRWA President Kent Watson reviewed NRWA’s accomplishments this past year, including a plan to purchase a fully equipped emergency response trailer and one-ton truck for NRWA to assist in emergency response efforts across the country. Watson highlighted the continuing success of the NRWA Affinity Partners and the growing NRWA Apprenticeship Program.

NRWA CEO Sam Wade praised the attendees, because the everyday efforts of utility professionals are what makes Rural Water successful.

Nicholas Hines, the first apprentice to complete the NRWA Apprenticeship Program, was also recognized during the Opening Session. The Apprenticeship Program is focused on helping emerging leaders become the next generation of professionals to improve the water and wastewater industry.

“This program is turning jobs into careers for apprentices across the country,” Hines said.

Between one of the highest attendance in conference history and the participation of high government officials from EPA and USDA, this WaterPro Conference was considered a huge success and plans have started for next year’s WaterPro Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.


Oklahoma Sets Industry Leading Precedence by Signing Strategic Alliance Agreement

August 22nd of 2019 was a day that should be noted in Oklahoma history as the first Strategic Alliance Agreement was formally signed between the Oklahoma State Secretary of Energy and Environment, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Water Resources Board, and the Oklahoma Rural Water Association, and was ratified by the Governor of Oklahoma Kevin Stitt.

The formal signing took place at the Oklahoma Rural Water Association’s fall conference at Sequoyah State Park’s Western Hills Lodge.  The alliance agreement commits the organizations to work together to help meet the missions of the organizations and to improve the sustainability of Oklahoma rural and small community water and wastewater systems.

Some of Oklahoma’s water and wastewater infrastructure systems exceed one hundred years old, and many of the systems are not prepared for the business challenges of the twenty-first century.  Without enough potable clean water and wastewater system capacity the economic development of many Oklahoma communities will be a risk.

“We’re in a different time and era than when most rural water and wastewater systems were set up.” Said Jimmy E. Seago, Deputy CEO of Oklahoma Rural Water Association. “At that time, our biggest challenges were meeting the needs of economic growth and development. Today, the biggest challenge is changing our mindset of how we operate and do business.”

Water system managers and boards will need to see themselves not as operating a mom-and-pop non-profit, but as professionals whose responsibilities include public health, customer service, best business practices, education, public relations, technology and much more.  And, the signing of this agreement will ensure they have the resources available to them to meet those needs.

No one organization or agency has all the resources to address the water and wastewater system sustainability planning that will be vital to the success of meeting and exceeding Oklahoma’s water needs into the next century. In 2018 the Oklahoma Rural Water Association took national honors for providing membership services. The new strategic alliance is an extension of that effort.

By working together as a team all the members of this strategic alliance have the resources required to complete the task.  And a daunting task it will be as there are over 1,300 water systems in the state that need long range sustainability planning.

“This is good government at work for the people of Oklahoma.” Said Scott Thompson, Executive Director of Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

It will elevate the rural water and wastewater systems of Oklahoma to a best-in-class business model.  This will move Oklahoma into the top five in the nation on providing long range value for its citizens through water and wastewater services.

Strategic alliances are built on relationships between people, and this alliance will develop trust and teamwork between the organizations and all of Oklahoma.

IRWA Breaks Ground for Technical Training Facility

Idaho Rural Water Association (IRWA) broke ground on its almost 11,000 square foot Technical Training Center located in Boise, Idaho on August 8, 2019.

This facility will be used to train incoming apprentices and help with emergency response hands-on education that will benefit small communities and rural areas all across Idaho. It will house both indoor and outdoor areas to accommodate classroom-style coursework and practical field training.

“By establishing a workforce training center, Idaho’s rural communities will have a dedicated source of trained workers prepared to take on the management and challenges associated with rural water infrastructure,” U.S. Senator Mike Crapo said as he previously commended IRWA for putting together .  a highly-merited proposal deemed worthy of investment by the Economic Development Administration.

In October 2018, U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $1.4 million grant to IRWA. The remaining financial support is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development’s Community Facilities Loan Program.

When the announcement of the award came out, U.S. Senator James Risch (ID) stated, “This investment will create jobs and energize rural water in Idaho and the industries it supports. I look forward to seeing the positive impact it has on our community and business development for years to come.”

Sen. Risch’s Regional Director, Rachel Burkett, attended the Groundbreaking Ceremony alongside Casey Atteberry, State Director of Agriculture for U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, and Dirk Mendive, Regional Director for U.S. Representative Russ Fulcher.

“After many years of hard work and determination by the IRWA staff and Board of Directors, the vision of providing superior training opportunities for professionals in the drinking water and wastewater industry can now become a reality,” Shelley Roberts, IRWA CEO, stated as she thanked everyone who has been a part of this dream.

Those who have been most involved in this project participated in the ceremonious groundbreaking with shovels that includes: William (Brad) Richy, Director of the Idaho Office of Emergency Management, Idaho Military Division; Layne R Bangerter, State Director of Idaho, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development; Shelley Roberts, CEO Idaho Rural Water Association; Robert Dial, Board President, Idaho Rural Water Association; Silvia Morrow, VP Branch Manager, D. L. Evans Bank Scott Henderson, Construction Manager, Pacific Source Construction; John Russ, Area Manager, Idaho Department of Labor; and Martin Hahle, AIA, President CSHQA.

EPA Administrator Will Deliver Keynote at WaterPro Conference

USEPA photo by Eric Vance

The National Rural Water Association welcomes U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler as its keynote speaker at WaterPro Conference in Nashville, Tennessee on September 9, 2019.

Wheeler will be the first EPA Administrator to attend WaterPro and to address America’s water and wastewater leadership of rural areas and small communities.

WaterPro is the annual conference of the National Rural Water Association and is designed to bring together water and wastewater utility systems – large and small, municipal and rural. These industry professionals are part of the decision-makers who are responsible for 90% of the nation’s community water supply.

EPA Administrator Wheeler is expected to cover the vital role EPA plays in building infrastructure for the future and the long-standing relationship with NRWA and its State Affiliates.

Don’t Fret – You Can Still Register for WaterPro Conference 2019

Did you miss the early bird registration deadline for WaterPro Conference 2019? Don’t worry! You still have ample time to sign up for the industry event of the year. This year’s agenda is packed full of valuable information and educational tools that you won’t want to miss. With topics on Utility Management, Technology Innovations, Women in Water and Board Leadership training, there is a wide variety for you to choose from.

If you are looking for more interaction and updates from the federal agencies, attend the Outlook Sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. WaterPro Conference will provide the latest in technological innovation, emergency response and disaster recovery and much more.

Along with these amazing session topics are opportunities to make the most out of your WaterPro Conference experience. Get in early on Sunday to enjoy a day on the green with fellow Rural Water professionals or take a shot at the Sporting Clays Fun Shoot. Check out the State Associations in the Exhibit Hall as they battle it out Monday at the first WaterPro Feud.

With WaterPro Conference being held in Nashville, Tennessee, you can take advantage of all the wonderful things it has to offer. From the Grand Ole Opry, to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, to Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage and much more, you can be sure Nashville has something just for you.

There are many opportunities for you at WaterPro Conference, such as learning new skills and upgrading current ones, networking opportunities, meeting with vendors and suppliers and hearing from the experts. You don’t want to miss it! Visit the conference website for information on the agenda, places to stay, events and how to register.

You may have missed the early bird registration opportunity, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on WaterPro! We look forward to seeing you in Nashville.

Source Water Protection Specialists Visit South Florida Water Management District

While attending NRWA’s In-Service Training in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USDA Source Water Protection Specialists from across the country visited the South Florida Water Management District. As the attendees toured the grounds, they learned about A-1 Flow Equalization Basin (FEB), which is one of several projects in the State of Florida’s Restoration Strategies plan to improve water quality in the Everglades. The A-1 FEB was completed in 2015 and now the shallow impoundment captures, stores and delivers stormwater runoff to treatment areas to improve their treatment performance.
Discussion on the Everglades water quality made up part of the conversation. The Everglades are at risk from excess nutrients found in stormwater runoff. Stormwater Treatment Areas (STA) are constructed wetlands that remove excess nutrients and are playing a vital role in helping the Everglades. One solution the treatment areas use is green technology; plants such as cattail, southern naiad and algae, uptake phosphorus and use it in metabolic life processes. From this green technology, the water flowing out of an STA has significantly less phosphorus than stormwater runoff flowing in.
In-Service is a great opportunity for the Source Water Protection Specialists to learn about different systems and areas of the country.
“It’s great to get a different perspective on things happening in other states. Many times, we only see a small picture of what’s happening in water and waste water but what happens all over the country can affect us all,” remarked Eric Fuchs, Source Water Protection Specialist with Missouri Rural Water Association.
Learning new techniques and operations, the attendees can take information back to their states and use it to help better their own operations.
“The enormity of the project was one thing that stood out to me,” also said Fuchs on the operations at the South Florida Water Management District.
The structural components of the STAs include more than 12 dump stations, over 200 water control structures and more than 100 miles each of levees and canals. With the size of the operation, mechanical repairs, preventative maintenance, erosion control and debris cleanup are ongoing tasks.
STAs are built for improving water quality in the Everglades, but their vast, shallow waters and rich plant life also make them a prime habitat for Florida wildlife. Such birds as roseate spoonbills, white storks and eagles can be seen. American alligators can also be seen year-round in the treatment wetlands.
Rural Water understands the importance of seeing and learning about unique operations and systems in different regions of the country. This is why each year at the NRWA In-Service Training, the Source Water Protection Specialists visit a nearby system. Opening up an avenue for them to learn and connect about one of the most important things in life, water.

Independence Day Celebrations Brought to you by Rural Water

From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues. It is one of America’s most cherished holidays.

The Rural Water family prides itself on its love for this country and dedication to their community. Rural Water professionals across this great land are some of the unseen heroes that work every day to provide safe, clean drinking water while safeguarding the environment and protecting the health of millions of Americans.

Water touches every part of our Independence Day festivities including barbeques, outdoor activities, and most prominently, fireworks. The American Pyrotechnics Association estimates that more than 14,000 professional firework displays light the skies on July 4. Another 238 million pounds of amateur fireworks are discharged from backyards, parks and streets across the country. The same rural water sources that provide quality drinking water to these areas are the same sources that provide local firefighters with water to extinguish fires caused by fireworks.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), thousands of injuries and fires are caused by fireworks each year in the U.S. On average, fireworks are the source of 18,500 fires per year in the United States, and more fires are reported on July 4 than any other day of the year.

Benchmarks vary by jurisdiction, but one standard requires water systems be able to supply an extra 250 gallons per minute over the utility’s maximum daily rate, sustained for at least two hours. That’s the rough equivalent of the daily water use of the average house every minute.

Rural Water professionals make roughly 30,000 on-site technical assistance visits annually, that include everything from hands-on repairs and leak detection to managerial assistance and rate studies. Rural Water also trains over 100,000 utility personnel every year to ensure communities can provide both the quality of water necessary for drinking and the quantity needed for fire protection.

NRWA would like to thank all water and wastewater professionals who dedicate their life’s work to protecting communities, small and large from coast to coast, and the vital role you play so Americans can celebrate its independence safe and sound.

The National Rural Water Association and the rest of our Rural Water family hopes everyone has a happy and safe Fourth of July!

NRWA Continues Training Water and Wastewater Professionals

Ft. Lauderdale, FL. – Rural water gathered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida from June 25 – 28 for In-Service Training with over 450 in attendance. Circuit riders, wastewater technicians, source water protection specialists, and other water professionals received continued education to help to serve rural communities. The rural water industry understands the importance of continually learning about best practices, innovative techniques and new technology.

Joel Baxley, Acting Assistant to the USDA Secretary for Rural Development, addressed attendees the morning of June 27. Baxley conveyed the importance of what the rural water industry does for our rural communities, and that USDA Rural Development can help play a crucial role in helping rural water’s efforts. He also met with individuals to discuss different aspects of the industry.

With three days of training, many subjects and topics covered all aspects of rural water and wastewater. From classes such as “Phosphorus Removal Basics” to “Disaster Response & Recovery” and “RD Loan and Grant Program Opportunities”, new knowledge and valued experience was shared across the board.

Over the course of the three-day training, a separate room was set up specifically for RD Apply training so our experienced state individuals can take the knowledge back to their communities and help apply for USDA loans and grants. In doing so they are helping make a difference for those systems and utilities that need infrastructure updates and more. Phil Leary with the Florida Department of Agriculture also spoke to the Source Water Protection Specialist attendees.

Rural water is setting the example of providing industry specific training for Rural America in order to better serve our rural communities and families. As technology, innovations, and standards move forward so does rural water.


Multiple Tornadoes Cause Damage in Western Ohio

Thirteen recorded tornadoes caused destruction across western Ohio on May 27, including the city of Dayton and surrounding areas. Dayton is a major water supplier to towns and cities in the area, like the rural water system in Brookville. Due to the damage from the EF4 tornado, the system in Dayton stopped supplying water to Brookville, causing depressurization in their system.
Brookville’s Service Director, Chris Holman, contacted Tim Ballard, Ohio Rural Water Association Circuit Rider and head of the Ohio Rural Water Disaster Task Force, to assist with recovering from three tornadoes that hit the area.
“For an area that had never experienced a tornado like this, they were still well prepared,” Ballard said.
Ballard said the city’s staff had already completed a visual check when he arrived on the scene. The wastewater treatment facility was in the direct path of the tornado, but the system didn’t miss a beat during operation with the help of their back up generator.
When Ballard arrived in Brookville, he developed an initial plan with Holman to perform a leak investigation on all areas with homes that were destroyed or were heavily damaged after water was redistributed to the area. The goal of the investigation was to conduct a preliminary assessment of the damage from the tornado and isolate specific service laterals that needed further repairs to restore pressurization to the system.
In the early hours of May 30, Brookville started to recirculate water again. Through the leak investigation, Ballard was able to isolate various leaks and other areas with issues and improve the pressurization of the system. By late afternoon on May 30, the system was fully pressurized, all areas of the system were surveyed, and all homes that had leaks were turned off. By late afternoon on June 1, all sampling had been completed and the system returned to normal operation.
“What stood out to me the most is that the city was extremely thorough and helped the citizens respond to the emergency,” Ballard said. “The staff of the service department showed extreme dedication, arriving at the office only an hour after the initial hit of the tornado and working late into the next day.”
While most of the city was unaffected by the direct path of the tornado, there were many homes that withstood damage. A total of 39 homes were destroyed, 42 had major damage, 55 had minor damage and 180 were affected by the tornado that hit Brookville.