RCAP Hosts National Training Conference

More than 150 TAPs (Technical Assistance Providers) from each of the six RCAP Regions (as well as an ASDWA staff representative) came together last week in Madison, WI for their annual National Training Conference. After welcoming remarks from RCAP Executive Director Robert Stewart and Jill Jonas, the Director of Wisconsin’s Bureau of Drinking Water and Groundwater, the TAPs heard from Mindy Eisenberg, Chief of the Drinking Water Protection Branch in EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water. Eisenberg spoke about priorities for the coming year and how TAPs should be prepared to help small communities meet the various challenges. New impacts from RTCR, lead, Stage 2, and Legionella are on the list. Additionally, focus areas such as source water, long term sustainability, reenergizing operator certification, and water system partnerships are expected to keep everyone busy.

The two and a half day conference offered participants a broad range of topics that were covered in concurrent sessions. A four hour double session gave TAPs a crash course in RTCR provisions for small systems and then challenged them to identify appropriate tasks and tools necessary to get the job done.   Other sessions looked at how to achieve asset management strategies for very small communities relying on the EPA STEP Guide as the foundation; effective processes to help systems form partnerships ranging from simple mutual aid agreements through to mergers and interconnections; and tips and techniques for effective group training. Even more sessions looked at water audits, sanitary surveys, teaching math and chemistry for water operators, membrane treatment, cross connection control, and private well programs.

On the final morning, Jackie Ponti-Lazaruk, Assistant Administrator for USDA’s Water and Environment Program, spoke to the participants about the differences between rural development programs last year and this year, noting that last year at this time, the Agency was suffering through the effects of the Federal sequester. Since then, however, passage of the Farm Bill has infused new energy and funds into their work. Ponti-Lazaruk hopes to see positive developments in a preliminary effort to regularize loan applications and see an electronic application process be available for Rural Development’s electric, telecommunication, and water loan and grant programs. She closed by noting the value of a strong ongoing partnership between USDA and the RCAP community.