National Capacity Development & Operator Certification Workshop Tackles Drinking Water Foundational Issues

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Alan Roberson, ASDWA’s Executive Director, and Anita Thompkins, EPA’s Director of OGWDW’s Drinking Water Protection Division, welcomed state primacy agency staff along with EPA Headquarters and Regional offices and representatives from the assistance community to the National Capacity Development & Operator Certification Workshop in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Held once every three years, this Workshop brings together a diverse group of individuals with a common interest in supporting the needs of small water systems in their efforts to attain and maintain compliance with the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.  This year, the Workshop’s theme was Foundational Programs:  Achieving Compliance Through Capacity Development and Operator Certification.  Representatives from 36 state drinking water programs (equally divided between 33 participants respectively from the Capacity Development and Operator Certification programs), eight of EPA’s 10 Regions, EPA Headquarters personnel, and several of our drinking water assistance provider partners came together August 8-10 to consider both challenges and successes and to begin to identify an effective path forward to enhance support options for small systems and their operators.

Enhanced communication within and across programs and taking better advantage of available data were recurring themes during the Workshop.  Plenary sessions covered topics ranging from strategies to achieve compliance through targeted technical assistance and promoting sustainability to water system partnerships and communicating with decision makers.  Breakout sessions included focusing on financial capacity and helping operators understand their role in compliance and in the community.

At the end of the Workshop, discussions revolved around potential next steps for states, EPA, and assistance providers.  Among those were suggestions to refine search capabilities when it comes to online access for information about funding, assistance providers, and available tools and strategies; a refocus on information already available through processes such as sanitary surveys and ETT scores to help identify early opportunities to help systems avoid violations and enhance their technical, managerial, and financial capabilities; and an interest in an electronic vehicle for better information exchange between and among state programs.  Further, for the coming year, EPA, states, and assistance providers will continue efforts in support of water system financial capacity strategies, enhanced operator education and understanding, water system partnerships case studies and best practices, and related training and technical assistance initiatives.  Each of these efforts will, in turn, help achieve the Agency’s breakthrough measure of reductions in systems with health based violations by 2020.

EPA is planning to share a larger summary of the Workshop discussions and provide access to the various powerpoint presentations.  ASDWA will share how to access that information once it becomes available.