Rural water aids Gifford after tornado

GIFFORD, Ill. – A tornado hit Gifford, Ill. on Sunday, Nov. 26th cause considerable damage, including the destruction of at least 20 homes and damage to the town’s water system.

Gifford, a village of 995 people about 10 miles north of Champaign, was hit by the tornado around 1 a.m. and four injuries were reported by Champaign County Sherriff Dan Walsh.

Because of the widespread damage, State Police limited access to the storm-damaged area. Evan Jones, a circuit rider with the Illinois Rural Water Association had to get special permission to enter the area and provide assistance. He met Jess Childress, village superintendent, at the damaged water plant.

“When I pulled up, all that was standing was the aerator and their four sand filters,” Jones explained. “They also had damage to their water tower and it was deemed unsafe to fill until inspected by the manufacturer.”

The tornado also carried away most of the utilities tools and equipment.

Work crews from nearby Paxton and Gibson City arrived and started working to help clear the streets and restore water service. Steve Johnson of EPA was also on site to provide ideas and advice. Jones started working on the village wells, testing them and pulling new wire. After about eight hours of work, the crews were able to start the water flowing.

“It was amazing, since most of the parts were scavenged from what was left of the plant,” Jones said.

The next day the crews returned and started expanding services throughout the town. They stacked hay bales around the make-shift treatment plant, helping insulate the system from the weather. Jones started creating the charts and tables necessary to track the operation of the well pumps and disinfection pumps.

Jones and Don Craig, deputy director of the Illinois Rural Water Association, then began locating service lines for crews to disconnect. Severe damage to homes and business had created several leaks that had to be isolated so that the system could maintain water pressure.

“That was one of the biggest challenges, with all the debris lying around,” Jones said.

After the second day, most of the water service had been restored to Gifford, but major repairs were still needed before the utility could be returned to normal operation.

NRWA opens 2013 H2O-XPO

2013 XPO OpeningLOUISVILLE, Ky. – The National Rural Water Association opened the 2013 H2O-XPO in a session on Oct. 1st in the Galt House Ballroom.

NRWA President Doug Anderton of Georgia began the opening by thanking staff of government agencies that were not able to attend the conference because of the recent government shutdown. His remarks include thanks for RUS Administrator John Padalino, Assistant Administrator Jackie Ponti-Jazaruk, Director of the EPS Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water Dr. Peter Grevatt, Department of Energy Senior Advisor for Clean Energy and Rural Development LeAnn M. Oliver.

“We would have lost 11 Circuit Riders last year without Jackie,” Anderton said. Circuit Riders are roving water professionals that provide technical assistance and training to systems in every state.

“Do you like delivering your CCR electronically?” Anderson asked the crowd of several thousand water and wastewater professionals. “Dr. Grevatt assisted with those efforts.”

One of rural water’s efforts the past year was the ability to deliver mandated Consumer Confidence Reports electronically. Previous those reports were required to be mailed to every customer a water system served. The change is expected to save utilities millions of dollars in cost annually.

This was only one effort were rural water had success during 2013. NRWA has also expanded its source water protection program to every state for the first time. This year’s advancements are considered a special achievement, since they were made in a challenging political and economic environment.

“We’ve had a lot of success in D.C. when a lot of others have not,” Anderton said.

A great deal of that success had been attributed to the individual efforts of water professionals that work tirelessly in the effort to supply their communities with clean drinking water, and who are willing to tell their story.

“Our success is because of each and every one of you,” Anderton said.

Anderton also thanked NRWA’s sponsors CoBank, USABlueBook, HD Supply, CST Storage Aquastore and Ford Meter Box. Their sponsorship supports NRWA activities year-round.

The combined opening session and awards ceremony capped the first day of the conference, which started that morning.

NRWA hosts 2013 awards; Minnesota Association of the Year


2013 Assn of the YearLOUISVILLE, Ky. – Staff from the Minnesota Rural Water Association jumped up and exchanged high-fives as their association was named “Association of the Year” during the 2013 Tribute to Excellence awards ceremony held October 1st as part of the H2O-XPO in Louisville, Ky.

MRWA was honored for years of consistent service, including retaining 17 staff members with a combined 225 years of service. Minnesota also won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Communications, Publications and Public Relations, recognized for its monthly newsletter and quarterly magazine. The association also recently started a notification system that can contact thousands through phone lines, e-mails and text messages.

The Florida Rural Water Association won two awards. FRWA was honored with the Outstanding Achievement in Legislative Initiatives for its effort in the campaign to have Consumer Confidence Reports delivered electronically, and actions that led to more affordable state nutrient reduction plans. Florida was also awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Technical Assistance award.

The Kentucky Rural Water Association was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Member Services Award in honor of the range of benefits they offer to their member systems. KRWA offers a range of services, including a Finance Corporation, Recordkeeping, CCR Hosting, and Insurance programs.

The Wisconsin Rural Water Association was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Training Award. Wisconsin Rural Water has conducted over 250 classes at 100 different locations to over 5,000 system operations specialists.

These winners were selected from 49 state associations across the nation. The National Rural Water Association Awards Committee reviews each submission with the names redacted, then scores each item to select a winner. Kent Watson of Texas chairs the committee of Phillip Combs of Tennessee, Steve Fletcher of Illinois, Paul Fulgham of Utah and Henry Meyer of Atlantic States.

Little Falls, NY wins Environment Award

2013 Enviromental AwardLOUISVILLE, Ky. – Little Falls, New York was awarded the Environmental Achievement award at this year’s Tribute to Excellence awards ceremony held on Oct. 1st as part of the H2O-XPO in Louisville, Ky.

The National Rural Water Association awards individuals or utilities that have gone beyond the normal requirements of their job to be better stewards of the environment.

The City of Little Falls, with a population of 4,800 along the Mohawk River, created a plan for Bio-solids reuse. Combating extreme cold, ice formation, snail invasions and the cost of using over 90,000 gallons of fuel to dispose of bio-solids, the city turned to an ecological approach in an abandoned coal mine reclamation project. This land application is now responsible for a sustainable, hay production initiative.

KRWA names Rob Johnson “Friend of Rural Water”

D30_5621WICHITA, Kan. — Robert Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Water Association, was named “Friend of Kansas Rural Water” at the Association’s 2013 conference held at the Century II Convention Center in Wichita in late March.  In presenting the award, Kansas Rural Water General Manager Elmer Ronnebaum commentated that it is difficult to describe “Rob” because of the many places and faces he has dealt with. “He’s been responsible for training, for administration, for supporting the fledging National Rural Water Association soon after it was established. He has continued service since 1978 to the present in helping guide and build the most responsible voice for rural water in America,” he said.

“Rob is best described as a negotiator, a debater and a mentor. He has guided the advocacy for rural America – and as a result, he has helped communities and rural water rural water districts across Kansas in many ways, many that cannot be fully appreciated,” KRWA President Dennis Schwartz says.

Rob is a graduate of what was Central State University, which is now the University of Central Oklahoma; he earned a graduate degree from the University of Arkansas. He taught for five years at Southeast Missouri State University before joining NRWA in 1978. In 1985 Rob was named Chief Executive Officer for NRWA.

Kansas Rural Water Association thanks Robert Johnson for his leadership and perseverance in helping all of the 49 state rural water affiliates and the 31,000 members of the NRWA. NRWA’s offices are located in Duncan, Oklahoma with legislative offices at 101 Constitution Ave. in Washington. Rob and his wife Barbara live in tiny Loco, Oklahoma.

MsRWA bridging the gap between rural Miss communities and USDA

msusdaGREENWOOD, Miss. — On April 4, 2013 Mississippi Rural Water Association Executive Director Kirby Mayfield, Wastewater Technician Larry Bratton, Circuit Rider Tom Abernathy along with Trina George, state director for USDA Rural Development in Mississippi, and a host of USDA staff and partners attended “A day with USDA:  Accessing Opportunities in Rural America” at Leflore County Civic Center in Greenwood, Miss. The event presented by Congressman Bennie Thompson in conjunction with Alcorn State University Extension Service .  This is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “StrikeForce” initiative.

Congressman Thompson welcomed attendees and partners to the event.  He assured the attendees the USDA will do more to partner with local and state governments and community organizations on projects that promote economic development and job creation.  This one day event is a way to increase partnerships in financially challenged Mississippi communities.

Also in attendance was Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development, Judy Canales, as she travels the US promoting revitalizing rural America.  Ms. Canales also worked with the USDA during the Clinton administration as well.  Mr. Mayfield took the opportunity to speak with her regarding the MsRWA’s role in assisting municipal and rural utilities in Mississippi.

MS Rural Water Association is a sounding board for many mayors, managers, aldermen, board of directors, and operators across MS.  As our Circuit Riders, Wastewater Technicians, FSA Source Water Technician and Training Technicians travel across MS, they heard mayors, managers and other community leaders voice their opinion on issues facing their communities and utility systems.  They see the USDA loan and grant program, as well as the training and technical assistance provided by the MsRWA as a vital tool.  With the MsRWA’s assistance it allows them the help needed to provide the communities they serve with safe, clean, and affordable drinking water and wastewater.

Mississippi Rural Water holds conference, honors Senator Cochran

cochranJACKSON, Miss. — The 2013 Mississippi Rural Water Annual Technical Conference was held March 25th thru the 28th. It was held at the Mississippi Trade Mart Building in Jackson, Miss. This conference, the largest of its kind in the state and one of the largest conference’s in MsRWA history, was attended by approximately 950 attendees. Along with the large exhibit hall which consisted of 140 exhibitors, the conference also had water and waste water training along with Board Management training.On Wednesday, March 27th, the annual catfish luncheon was held. Special guests attending the lunch were many of the State Legislators, Public Service Commissioner Lynn Posey, staff members from the PSC, MS Department of Health, Rural Development, Department of Environmental Quality, staff members from several Senate and Congressional Offices, and many others.

However, the guest of honor went to longtime Senator Thad Cochran. Serving on the Appropriations and Agriculture Appropriation Committee’s as Chairman and as Ranking Member.  Senator Cochran has always been a true supporter of Ms Rural Water Association and National Rural Water Association’s efforts.  He is always at the forefront insuring appropriations funding for water and wastewater is a top priority. He has always supported the training and technical assistance programs provided by the National Rural Water Association and its State Associations.  He is always an advocate for what we do and realizes the importance of the commodity we provide. He was also instrumental in getting the Source Water Protection Program started at the national level as well.

During the luncheon, Mississippi Rural Water Association along with a unanimous consent of the MsRWA Board of Director’s, staff and members awarded Senator Cochran and made him an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Mississippi Rural Water Association. The Association also dedicated the 2013 MsRWA Conference in his name.

Mississippi rural water responds after tornado

RAYMOND, Miss. – Kirby Mayfield was in Washington, D.C. for the Rural Water Rally when he learned that a tornado was cutting through Mississippi. He immediately called his staff of water professionals, and had them prepare to offer assistance to affected water utilities.

“I got the phone call at 10 p.m. in Washington,” said Mayfield, the executive director of the Mississippi Rural Water Association. “I notified my staff and they started making calls behind it.”

In the past, disaster response activities were coordinated by Mayfield, but this was the first time that Circuit Rider Randy Turnage would be responsible for leading the response. Mississippi rural water activated the Rural Water Emergency Assistance Cooperative at 1:30 p.m. on February 10th in preparation for the severe weather. Once the tornado moved through, Turnage and circuit riders Charles Odom and James Benefield began contacting systems affected by the storms.

“We contacted nearly every system that could have been damaged,” Turnage said. Some of the utilities had to be contacted in person the following day.

Lamar Park Water and Sewer suffered the worst damage. When Benefield visited the system, it was running on generators and had numerous leaks. Wes Hodges, the water system operations specialist, has been working to repair the system despite losing his home in the storm.

Odom responded to several utilities to assist with locating and repairing leaks. Flooding damaged lines in several systems, leaving customers without water of limited the ability of the utility to restore service. Odom located leaks at M&M Water Association and Copiah Water Association, and they were quickly repaired. A larger leak at the Whistler Water Association was at a river crossing, the size and location of the leak making it difficult to repair immediately. Odom arranged for the adjacent Clara Water Association and Bucktunna Water Association to provide aid until the leak could be repaired.

Padalino remarks a highlight of rally opening

cropWASHINGTON, D.C. — John Padalino, Administrator for the Rural Utilities Service, spoke in the opening of the 2013 Rural Water Rally that was held Feb. 11-13 in Washington, D.C.  Padalino has long been considered a friend of Rural Water because of his early work in the industry and his work with RUS. The administrator’s comments were very well received by the water professionals in attendance. Video of the speech and Padalino’s speaking notes are presented below.

John Padalino Speaking Notes

Good Morning!

It is great to be speaking with you here in Washington DC; being with the “water folk” is like a family reunion! I bring greetings from President Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rural Development Undersecretary Dallas Tonsager; I want to thank President Anderton, and Executives Rob Johnson and Same Wade for inviting me to speak with you today.

As this is Rob Johnson’s last Rally – I want to thank him for his service and leadership! You have shaped this organization and the rural water industry for the better. And you will be missed!

As I watched the Super Bowl last week, I turned my attention to the commercials. One stood out to me—and maybe to you, too. The commercial with Paul Harvey talking about why God created farmers. As he talked about the hard work, long hours and leadership it takes to be a farmer, it struck me that they could make a similar commercial for rural water and waste operators and managers. So before I begin my formal remarks I want to say – THANK YOU for all that you do on behalf of rural America.

I would also like to acknowledge all of the veterans here today and THANK YOU for the sacrifices you have made on behalf of all of us here today!

Sometimes we need a reminder of what is really important. A signpost that forces us to stop and take note of the road ahead and the impact of the choices we make on the future. Hurricane Sandy has been a good reminder that water is important.

  • Water is a symbol of a community’s vitality.
  • Modern, reliable water and waste service makes it possible for families to survive and stay healthy, for schools and hospitals to serve and businesses to succeed.
  • If water works, everything else is possible.

Rural water operators understand this and take their responsibilities seriously.

  • In the midst of disasters like Sandy, they go above and beyond the call of duty.
  • When Super Storm Sandy hit Long Beach Township New Jersey in October, the community of 3,000 was forced to deal with an incredible disaster.
  • Work to keep service online began long before Sandy ever showed up on any radar, with the hiring of qualified staff, the development of an emergency response plan and other preparatory activities.

When the storm initially knocked out power on the island, pre-existing natural gas generators allowed the plants to stay online. As the storm progressed and the island was evacuated, shutdown procedures for all but two of the plants were implemented.

Sandy caused significant damage.

  • Damage to the distribution system.
  • Sandy tore apart water mains and shredding fire hydrants.
  • One well went underwater and was contaminated.
  • Buildings were damaged.
  • The island was covered in sand and salt water—in some places up to five feet deep.
  • Movement on the island was severely restricted, and many times the water and sewer crews had the only equipment on the island that could move.
  • The water was so deep that even bulldozers struggled to make it through.

Michael Clark, Assistant Water Plant Operations Specialist, was among those worked to assess and repair the damaged system.

  • Going house-to-house and risking their lives in the process.
  • Worked 12 to 20 hours for 35 days straight to bring the system back online.
  • Even helped rescue stranded residents and bring them to safety.

The New Jersey Rural Water Association provided generators and circuit riders to assist in the effort. New Jersey Circuit Rider Dave Lester helped work on compliance issues with the system, and get a two-week boil order lifted.

Today, service is substantially restored and long-term recovery for the Township is well underway.

Stories like this remind us how important investment in rural systems is to the communities we serve and to the people who live in them.

  • Investment in constructing the physical infrastructure
  • Investment in planning and preparatory activities
  • Investment in training and technical assistance; and
  • Investment in a qualified workforce.

These investments create sustainable systems

  • equally capable of serving the daily water and waste needs of rural families and businesses,
  • facing disasters like hurricane Sandy, and
  • providing economic opportunity for rural areas for years to come.

These investments are not optional.

At Rural Development, we understand this, and are proud to play our part in ensuring that the network of rural water and waste systems is strong and sustainable.

In FY 2012, Rural Development invested

  • over $1.4 billion
  • in 845 water and wastewater projects in rural areas nationwide
  • will benefit nearly 2.5 million rural residents.

We also continued the build-out of our Recovery Act projects.

  • Pleased to report that 97% of the projects are to bid point or beyond.
  • 362 projects are completed—that’s 208 more than last year at this time!
    • The first project completed was in Missouri
    • Two states, Nevada and Rhode Island have completed all of their projects.
    • Michigan has the highest number of projects completed at 36, followed closely by South Dakota at 32 (88% of their projects).
    • Thanks to these and all of the states for moving these much needed project ahead.
  • Nearly 400 more are in active construction, many of which will be completed this year

Projects like the Ozark Mountain Regional Water Project.

  • Regional system is bringing safe, reliable water to thousands of rural residents across four counties.
  • Project is set to be completed this summer, when all 19 small rural water systems it will serve are connected.

Large and small, all of our ARRA projects will provide critical infrastructure and economic opportunity to rural America.

In addition, we invested over $38.5 million in technical assistance and training activities that resulted in:

  • Nearly 100,000 technical assistance calls completed by Drinking Water and Wastewater Circuit Riders,
  • Thousands of rural board members and operators trained; and
  • New tools and guides developed to help rural systems.

We continue our focus on sustainability:

  • Hosting workshops for rural systems to help them assess their current status; and
  • Developing strategies to increase sustainability.
  • Working with our partners to promote sustainability.

Special thanks to Michigan Rural Water Association ED Tim Neumann, and Georgia Rural Water Association ED Jimmy Matthews for hosting two of our sustainability workshops and providing input on our guides and tools.

Our team of talented and dedicated staff, led by our Assistant Administrator, Jacki Ponti-Lazaruk, is working hard to continue our 75-year tradition of serving the needs of Rural America. Our role is no less critical today than it was seven decades ago. A strong rural water network leads to a strong Rural America. A strong rural America leads to a stronger America, where food, energy, goods and services are plentiful. Rural communities continue to seek funding to build, expand and modernize water and waste infrastructure. Our backlog of applications exceeds $3 billion. (Funny that that number never seems to move for very long.)

However, the environment in which we will conduct our work has changed.

  • I don’t have to tell you that competition for federal dollars is high, and federal agencies are being asked to do more with less.
  • We saw a change in staffing as the result of two buy-out exercises designed to address operational budget cuts.
  • To continue to meet the critical infrastructure needs of rural communities RUS must not only adapt to the changing environment, but transform into an agile and more advanced service provider.
  • have challenged each of my Assistant Administrators to find ways to streamline our processes and maximize the use of our limited resources, so that we can continue to meet our commitment to serve you.

In the year ahead that will mean:

  • training field staff in new and innovative ways,
  • working to standardize and automate preliminary engineering reports across all federal and state funding agencies,
  • working our federal partners at EPA and other agencies to streamline or standardize the environmental information required for federal and state water funding.
  • streamlining our Emergency Water Grants regulations, and
  • working with our field offices on ways to more efficiently deliver our programs.

We want to hear from you as we go through our transformation.

  • We want—we need—to hear your recommendations.
  • Jacki and I want to work better, faster and smarter, and appreciate your expertise as we move toward our goals.

Here are some specific areas where input from partners like you will be invaluable.
How can we:

  • better target our funds where they are needed most and can have the greatest impact;
  • continue to advance our sustainability initiatives;
  • get the word out on why rural water is so important!
    • Your very own Sam Wade has been leading the charge on this – – Sam, Thank you! RUS looks forward to continuing our work on this front!
    • Tennessee Rural Water Association does a great job as we saw at the NRWA conference this fall. Their pamphlet on the impact of rural water is a great tool that can do much good.
    • It would be great to see similar efforts in every state!

At RUS, we will measure our success based on three factors

  • Connectivity
    • Is every rural American connected to clean, safe, affordable drinking water?
    • Are the projects we have funded being completed in a timely manner so that rural residents and businesses can benefit from access to modern, reliable infrastructure.
    • Ultimately, do we reach those most in need and where the greatest impact will be felt?
  • Capacity
    • Have our efforts not only increased access to infrastructure, but are they enabling rural communities to act in ways that position them for the future?
    • Did we facilitate leveraging of funding, programs and other assistance by rural communities to advance their goals?
  • Creativity
    • Have our efforts lead to creative solutions for our rural communities? Are rural communities taking advantage of the latest technologies to compete locally and globally? Do they know how Rural Development can help with advanced manufacturing, smart grid, alternative energy, in addition to water conservation, improved water quality and delivery?
    • Have our efforts lead to more sustainable rural communities?

We know our efforts help provide clean water to our cities. More than 88 percent of our fresh water first falls on private lands in rural America before entering the water supply. This raises the stakes for the work our rural water systems do, as well as the conservation efforts our farmers and ranchers carry out every day.

As Secretary Vilsack has noted, Rural America is critically important to our nation.

  • With 98 percent of Americans living off the farm and more than 80 percent living in metro areas, we need to tell our story proactively and often.
  • We can’t afford to allow rural communities to be left out or left behind, particularly here in Washington.
  • The work carried out by rural Americans stands as the backbone to the strength of our nation.

All of us depend on rural America for food, water, energy and much more – and too many folks around the country don’t realize or appreciate this.

As many of you know, I was first a water guy. And I am honored to be serving as the RUS Administrator. As Administrator, I will do everything in my power to ensure that our water programs succeed. Not because of the program’s history, but because of its impact on the future. I look forward to working with you and the communities we all serve in the year ahead!

Thank you!