Water lines, sanitary and storm sewers, and other infrastructure are usually hidden from plain sight in most communities. But if this infrastructure weren’t there, no community could sustain economic growth needed to help people live, work and thrive.
Great Lakes Community Action Partnership Rural Community Assistance Program initiatives help small, rural communities ensure that water and wastewater flows safely and effectively for the people who live there. The program offers energy audits that help communities improve water treatment facility efficiency, and training for local officials on environmental regulations, asset management and more. Likewise, RCAP can assist communities in applying for and managing grants to meet local needs and spur local growth. Other department services include low-interest loans offered to rural homeowners for water well improvements or replacements; free well assessments; and small-business loans for micro-enterprise.
"RCAP’s services are crucial for rural communities," GLCAP Community Development Director Deb Martin said. "Small towns frequently do not have the same access to development resources that larger cities do, and that’s where RCAP can come in and assist."
RCAP was particularly important to the residents of Sebring in early 2016. Starting the year prior, low pH levels in the town’s water supply caused the water to become overly acidic, which in turn resulted in corroded pipes throughout homes in Sebring. The corrosion leached dangerously high levels of lead into
residential water supplies.
Through the assistance of RCAP, Sebring was able to secure a $404,885 USDA Emergency Water Assistance Grant to help address the problem. Senior Rural Development Specialist and GIS
(Geographic Information System) Coordinator Sherry Loos informed the village about the grant and prepared the application for Sebring.
"I don’t think Sebring would have known about the grant or applied without our help," Loos said.
The grant allowed Sebring’s water treatment plant to install orthophosphate injection equipment, which controls water pH levels to reduce the risk of further corrosion and lead contamination. The grant also covered the village expenses for providing bottled water to residents, laboratory testing expenses and
engineering, sampling and on-going testing expenses to prevent future issues from developing.
For her efforts, Loos was recognized with an exemplary service award from the village a few months after helping Sebring apply for the grant.
"Sebring in particular demonstrates how RCAP can be a great service to small communities in need," Martin said.