USDA Lowers WEP Interest Rates

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The average rate for the 11 Bond Buyers Index has gone down during the last three months resulting in reduced interest rates for the Rural Utility Service Water and Waste Loan and Grant Program effective July 1.

New Rates will be as follows:
Poverty – 1.625%
Intermediate – 2.25%
Market – 2.75%

On September 28, 2015, USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, Water and Environmental Programs (RUS/WEP) launched RD Apply, at the National Rural Water Association WaterPro Conference in Oklahoma City. RD Apply is RUS’ online application intake system that provides the capability to apply for loans and grants for RUS Programs including water and waste disposal, broadband and electric infrastructure funding.

As of June 28, there has been 48 applications filed through the system and moved through to processing, and 126 additional applications are in the process of being filed.

“RD Apply saves processing time,” stated Jacki Ponti-Lazaruk of USDA. “Applications filed through the system do not have to be re-entered by RD Staff, so our field offices can immediately begin processing the requests.”

To improve the loan experience for new applicants, WEP has an RD Apply team that currently provides applicant training on how to use the system and monitors incoming applications to ensure prompt processing. To demonstrate RD Apply to community leaders, engineers and circuit riders, RD staff has attended more than 40 rural water conferences and other events.

RD Apply helps users through the process of filing with tools and tips along the way. The system can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week from any internet-capable device. RD Apply is set up for applicants to easily work with their consultants. For example, applicants can give their engineer access to their application so the engineer can upload the Preliminary Engineering Report and other documents need to complete the application.

To access RD Apply, a “Level 2” authentication is required. To register for “Level 2” authentication users would need to enter some basic information, and then respond to more specific questions to ensure the user is verified. The good news – this is all done online, eliminating the in-person verification previously required by Rural Development. Users have noted the registration process can be lengthy, therefore, USDA encourages systems to register now, so their account is ready to go when they want to seek funding from USDA, RUS. To view an informational RD Apply Flyer Click Here.

Carrying On Through the West Virginia Flooding


(Facebook/West Virginia Department of Transportation)

Rainelle, W.V. – A sign on the outskirts of the town of Rainelle, WV greets visitors with the slogan, “A Town Built to Carry On”. When several bands of severe thunderstorms moved through the state of West Virginia starting around 4:30 am on Thursday, June 23, 2016, that slogan was put to the test.

The storms brought high winds and torrential downpours, causing flash flooding, rising water levels in numerous rivers and streams, power outages and downed trees. The flooding caused extensive damage and destruction to homes, businesses and water and wastewater utility systems across the state. Over ten inches of rain fell in the area surrounding Rainelle. The Rainelle Water Treatment Plant was damaged with flood water cresting at 45 inches inside the treatment plant. West Virginia Rural Water Association’s (WVRWA) Circuit Rider Daniel Vestal arrived at the system at 9:00 am on Saturday morning. Fortunately, Vestal had attended a two-day Rural Water Disaster Response Training class last month which prepared him for the exact conditions he had experienced in the past four days.

The cleanup process began as the water level started to recede Saturday morning. Most of the motors and equipment had been under water and the electrical power was out. The neighboring town of Meadow Bridge sent their fire truck to help them clean out the mud and sediment that had washed into the water plant. Then began the process of drying out the motors and equipment to assess the flood damage. One of the pump motor suppliers was able to deliver and install a replacement for a damaged motor. The next step, will be to begin pressuring up the distribution system.

“It will likely take some time to detect and repair all of the damaged distribution system,” says Vestal. Leak detection and repair is a methodical process where you begin at the water plant and work your way out to the outer regions of the distribution system. “Things get better each day. Hopefully we can help to get this community back on its feet.” With the help of the Rainelle’s people, WVRWA and the surrounding communities, the town of Rainelle will be “A Town to Carry On”.

NRWA hosts 2016 In-Service

Cleh7zEUgAE88zDLITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Over 400 Rural Water staff from across the U.S. gathered in Little Rock, Ark. as the National Rural Water Association opened their annual in-service training on June 21.

In-service is an annual training event for NRWA staff and employees of their member State Rural Water Associations. Training covers all aspects of rural water, including association management, marketing, accounting and technical assistance. Technical training focuses on improving the assistance provided to utilities through the drinking water, wastewater and sourcewater protection programs.

WVRWA Trains Utilities in Emergency Response


SCOTT DEPOT, W.V. – The West Virginia Rural Water Association hosted an emergency response training session for water and wastewater utilities May 24 and 25 in Scott Depot, W.V.

“West Virginia has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world – majestic mountains, clear flowing streams and scenic river valleys,” said Amy Swann, WVRWA executive director. “Unfortunately, those very same features can turn deadly and destructive at a moment’s notice.”

In 2015, there were five FEMA Disaster Declarations in West Virginia for incidents including severe storms, flooding and straight-line winds.

The training was designed as a comprehensive two-day course to help water and wastewater utilities to prepare for and recover from disasters. Instruction focused not only on operational aspects for emergency response, but also customer service and professional utility management.

West Virginia Rural Water trained 41 people from 24 different systems in training sessions throughout 2015 and 2016.

NRWA Hosts Successful Water District Forum


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Water Professionals from water districts, regional systems and Rural Water Associations across the country met to receive high-level briefings and discuss water industry issues at the Second Annual Water District Finance and Regulatory Issues Forum, held June 1-2 in Washington, D.C.

“The second year of the forum was again a great opportunity for regional systems to learn, understand and express their opinions on regulatory and funding challenges,” said Dominic Jones, manager of Red Rock Rural Water Systems in Jeffers, Minn.

“This is really top-level information,” said Sam Wade, CEO of the National Rural Water Association.

The District Forum was designed to address the unique needs of Utility Districts and Regional Water Systems. These utilities face unique challenges due to large service areas, miles of pipe that cross various jurisdictional boundaries and unique governmental structures. The Forum has evolved into a unique opportunity for all systems to get briefings on the latest issues impacting the water industry and network with utility and agency leaders shaping the water industry.

“The complexity of supplying drinking water to Rural America becomes apparent when leaders from across the United States discuss their own local challenges,” Jones said.

Patrick Carroll, Chris Tomassi and Melissa Zimmerman, appropriators from the Interior and Agriculture Appropriations Committees, lead discussions about the idiosyncrasies within their committees; how the Chairmen of the subcommittees and full committees view rural America; and how they prioritize the mandatory and discretionary funding programs within their accounts.

“The appropriators mentioned that when their committees received funding requests from the Members that there are a lot of requests coming in on Rural Water’s behalf and the support from both sides of the aisle seems to be unwavering,” said Matt Holmes, Deputy CEO of the National Rural Water Association.

Rural Utility Service Administrator Brandon McBride, RUS Water and Environment Programs Assistant Administrator Jacki Ponti-Lazaruk and RUS Water and Environment Programs Director Kent Evans explained the Rural Utility Services funds available, historically-low interest rates and the latest features to the RUS Water and Environment Programs. They emphasized that the RUS had money available for projects, and the new RD Apply system makes applying for funding faster and easier than ever.

“We have a great partnership with RUS,” Wade said. “It’s always great to hear about how they enjoy working with Rural Water and how effective these programs can be.”

Jim Gebhardt and Ron Bergman of the EPA came by the forum to discuss the EPA administered Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds. They emphasized the programs’ assistance to the states and how the program can be the impetus to the creation of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

The EPA staff also discussed the mission of the new Water Infrastructure Resiliency Finance Center.

“The Forum attendees were able to ask questions and start a conversation about the potential ramifications and unintended consequences of the Finance Centers to rural American water and wastewater infrastructure,” Wade said.

CoBank Senior Vice President Nivin Elgohary and Water Sector Vice President Chris Schafner gave a presentation that focused on CoBank’s unique value to borrowers and government agencies. CoBank currently provides financial services to the Agribusiness, Communications, Energy, Water, and Community Facilities industries across rural America with almost 900 employees in banking centers from DC to California.

L. Michael Bogert of the Parson, Behle and Latimer law firm gave a presentation on the Obama Administration’s Waters of the US rule and discussed his process of working with NRWA’s WOTUS working group to define Rural Water’s issues and formulate an amicus brief to file in the proper court of jurisdiction. Bogert defined the key issues of the rule including the definitions of the terms “tributary” and “adjacent waters,” explaining that a significant nexus is the basis for jurisdiction to protect non-navigable waters and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

Jeanette Manfra, Council to the DHS Secretary; Adam Sedgewick, Analyst at the National Institute for Standards and Technology;  and Steve Mustard and Michael Marlow of the Automation Federation made presentations about cybersecurity. The presenters discussed the process to update the NIST Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, and emphasized best cybersecurity practices for small and community water systems like changing passwords, securely managing customer information and unplugging from the internet in the case of an attack.

Bill Simpson and Fitz Elder discussed the 2016 political reelection cycle and the potential impacts for Rural Water’s federal priorities. They explained that 47% of the House Members have been in place for five years or less. This means that utilities have to continually educate members and their staff about Rural Water’s mission and priorities.

Initial feedback indicate the Forum was a tremendous success, for both attendees and presenters.

“I think the presenters got as much out of it as the attendees – they got to interact directly with system managers and board members,” Holmes said. “It’s a unique networking opportunity, because it’s more conversational and you don’t have the pressure of a conference schedule.”

“Red Rock will continue to support this forum,” Jones added. “This kind of collaboration brings benefits to our State Association and our local communities.”

Presentations from the District Forum are available to members on the WaterPro Community. Click Here to view the presentations.

VFDs: Practical Use and Real Economics for Water Systems : 2 p.m. CST July 21

VFDs: Practical Use and Real Economics for Water Systems : 2 p.m. CST July 21   Click Here to Register

This webinar will discuss the practical uses and limitations of variable frequency drives or VFDs for water systems. The presentation will cover wells, treatment process control, and system distribution and pressurization. It is based on two years of data collection from an operating water system employing 7 VFDs in diverse applications. The presentation will reveal: how VFD performance in the real world differs from theory; how VFDs can be more or less efficient than alternative drive systems depending on the circumstances; and how cost savings may depend more on the power company rate structure than pumping efficiency.

Presented by Todd “Ike” Kiefer. Kiefer is the President of the Board of a rural Mississippi water utility system of 4,000 meters. He is a retired 25-year military officer, Naval aviator, EA-6B Prowler pilot.  Kiefer was also the “Mayor” of largest air base in Iraq providing all utilities and public administration functions for 20,000 tenants. He has degrees in physics, strategy, and history. Kiefer is currently director of government relations and economic development for East Mississippi EPA, and president of North Lauderdale Water Association.

WaterPro Conference adds previews for Lock Village and Physical Security Presentation

The WaterPro conference has recognized the growing importance of Physical Security for our water infrastructure. The 2016 WaterPro conference will include sessions dedicated to Physical Security and the new Locks and Physical Security Village, which will provide a unique, hands-on instruction on locks and their operation.

While physical security training has become a standard feature of technology, networking and cybersecurity conferences, this will be the first time this kind of training is offered for a water utility audience. To better inform the WaterPro audience, the conference has added video of the physical security offerings from security and technology conferences across the nation.

MassRWA Assists Easthampton Wastewater Plant

NORTHFIELD, Mass. – When Easthampton, Mass. was in danger of violating the suspended solids portion of their wastewater discharge permit, the community contacted the Mass Rural Water Association for assistance.

David Kaczenski, a wastewater specialist with MassRWA, started examining the system’s aerations tanks, settling tanks and pumps.

“It seemed the aeration tanks were not getting enough bacteria returned to them to create good effluent,” Kaczenski said.

Kaczenski and Mike Pierce, the utility’s system operations specialist, examined the pumps and reviewed the electronic charts.

“The charts showed that the pumps were working properly and rate was sufficient,” Kaczenski said.

He then examined the actual flow of the pumps. After calculating the flow of the return pumps, he learned that the electrical controls were not operating correctly. Without proper flow, the tanks were starved of the bacteria needed to digest the sewage and keep the system in compliance with its permit.

“I recommended that pumps be set manually to a flow rate that was necessary to create a happy environment in the aeration basin,” Kaczenski said.

After five days, the treatment had improved and the suspended solids were no longer exiting the plant. The assistance helped the system avoid possible fines of $5,000 per day.

“We have to remember that electronics are convenient, but we have to double check them frequently,” Kaczenski said.

Iowa Rural Water Saves Community $75,000 in Wastewater Upgrade

NEWTON, Iowa – When the City of Panama, Iowa needed to upgrade its wastewater treatment system to comply with stricter Ammonia, Nitrogen and E-Coli disinfection standards, the community of 250 found itself staring at huge upgrade costs and –ongoing maintenance problems. Assistance from the Iowa Rural Water Association helped save the city over $75,000, choose a less time-intensive solution and apply for a USDA loan package.

The initial plan was to use a mechanical processing plant. Iowa Wastewater Technician John Veach met with the state engineer and a USDA loan specialist to review various options.

“They preferred a mechanical plant over a much simpler controlled discharge lagoon,” Veach explained. “It appeared that initial cost was the deciding factor.”

While the initial costs were lower, the mechanical plant would be more labor-intensive and require more advanced staff training to operate. Once the life-cycle costs were calculated, the expense of the two solution began to balance, with the simpler lagoon system having the advantage of being less labor-intensive.

Veach worked with the system to ensure their USDA loan and grant package would offset any additional up-front costs. He followed-up by meeting with the Panama mayor, city council and engineering firm to discuss the two approaches and the life-cycle cost of each system.

Veach’s work will save the community over $75,000 and provide options that require less labor and maintenance.

West Virginia Spends Months Assisting Elkins Road

SCOTT DEPOT, W.V. – A defining feature of Rural Water technical assistance is longevity – circuit riders make repeated visits over a period of weeks and months to assist utilities. West Virginia’s Bertis McCarty is an example of this persistence. He assisted the Elkins Road Public Service District in Buckhannon, W.V. with several issues over several months.

McCarty began working with Elkins Road in February, replacing the leaking seals in a booster pump station.

McCarty then spent March and April assisting the utility with leak detection and leak repair. His efforts helped the utility locate and repair five different leaks.

“At one time we were experiencing up to a 47% water loss on a daily basis,” said Allan Westfall, Elkins Road system operations specialist. “With [MCarty’s] help, we are now staying closer to 18% water loss daily.”

McCarty also advised the Elkins Road board on purchasing a leak detection system and detailed how such a system would help prevent future problems with water loss.

“We are so appreciative for the time he has spent over the last few months,” Westfall said. “There are times that we find ourselves in a position where we just need a helping hand. It is comforting to know that we have somewhere to turn when we need help.”