RCAP Hosts Agua4all Event Celebrating Access to Safe Drinking Water at Abbeville Head Start
The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP), and CoBank host event in South Carolina
Abbeville, S.C. (January 26, 2024) – Abbeville students and teachers celebrate the installation of new water bottle filling stations with lead filtration technology at Head Start Centers in Abbeville and McCormick. These new water bottle filling stations provide lead free drinking water to students and staff who have been unable to drink from the water fountains for the last 3 years due to high lead levels and COVID challenges. Additionally, all students and staff will receive a reusable water bottle to help students stay hydrated in the classroom and at play, while also learning about water quality issues and healthy beverage choices.
The event is hosted by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) and Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP), RCAP’s Southeastern partner, and will be held at the Abbeville Head Start Center, as part of the RCAP Agua4All program. Funding for the bottles and filling stations was provided by CoBank. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environment will also participate in this event.
“SERCAP is excited to be a part of this effort. Prior to the installation of the new bottle filling stations, the children at the Abbeville and McCormick Head Start centers had no access to safe drinking water from the water fountains. SERCAP is grateful to CoBank for supplying the funds to make this happen.” Heather Preston and Willie Morgan, SERCAP staff shared.
CoBank, a national, cooperative bank dedicated to the sustainability of rural communities was also a key partner in this effort. “We could not be more thrilled to support this program and these communities through Agua4All. We’re also very proud of our partnership with RCAP and SERCAP, which enables us to expand our mission to improve outcomes for rural America,” CoBank said.
“Our GLEAMNS Head Start Program has always ensured access to safe drinking water for all our children and families. However, operating our Abbeville and McCormick centers in older, former school buildings, we opted to use filtered water instead of the existing water fountains. Through this partnership with SERCAP, filtration systems have been added to the water fountains to enhance the quality of the water. Our children will now be able to refill their reusable water bottles at these new water stations, thereby reducing our use of disposable plastic water containers,” Shunna Jeter, GLEAMNS CEO, shared.
By utilizing funding appropriated through the EPA’s Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, DHEC’s Office of Rural Water Staff was able to sample and test drinking water taps in many child-care facilities and public schools across the state. Included amongst those samples were Abbeville and McCormick Head Start facilities.
“We at DHEC are excited for the the Head Start Centers in Abbeville and McCormick Counties who were able to take advantage and participate in the WIIN Grant program,’ said Caleb Snelling, DHEC Environmental Health Manager. “It is rewarding when we are able to collaborate with great national and regional partners like EPA, RCAP, SERCAP and CoBank to improve water quality for the children at Head Start Centers and public schools alike.”
Since the Agua4All program’s launch, RCAP, across all six of RCAP’s geographic regions, has installed hundreds of water bottle filling stations and point-of-use (POU) treatment solutions including POU arsenic filters in Arvin, CA schools and various community buildings and parks. Agua4All program participants have included well over 100 schools in more than 40 districts serving dozens of rural communities. It has since grown from its California roots to provide increased access to and consumption of safe drinking water to rural schools in several states across the country. This work has been supported broadly by both public and philanthropic funds since 2014 including entities such as The California Endowment, the Chris Long Foundation, CoBank, and Liquid IV who are dedicated to the health and wellness of children, especially those in underserved areas of the country.
RCAP was able to leverage this philanthropic support and was awarded $3.65 million from the EPA’s WIIN Act program to assist with the voluntary reduction of lead in drinking water at schools and childcare facilities. RCAP and four of its regional partners, Communities Unlimited (CU), Great Lakes Community Action Partnership (GLCAP), RCAP Solutions (RSOL), and SERCAP, will reduce lead in schools and childcare facilities in rural communities in at least 9 states through remediation strategies including installing water bottle filling stations with ANSI/NSF-approved lead removal filters and replacing fixtures. This new program was awarded in 2022 but began October 1, 2023.
RCAP looks forward to connecting with students, teachers, administrators, agencies, local government, and other non-profit partners to build greater awareness around dangers of lead and the importance of safe drinking water access and consumption and how Agua4All can help.
About Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP):
The Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) is a national network of non-profit partners working to provide technical assistance, training, resources, and support to rural communities a across every state, the U.S. territories, and Tribal lands. Through RCAP’s regional partners, more than 350 technical assistance providers (TAPs) build long-term, trusted relationships with thousands of communities across the country.
About Southeastern Rural Community Assistance Project (SERCAP):
Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc. (SERCAP) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality of life for low-to-moderate income individuals living in the Southeast United States. Since 1969, when SERCAP first brought clean, safe drinking water to low-income rural residents of Virginia’s Roanoke Valley, the agency has grown into an organization directly responsible for providing safe water, sanitary water disposal, and structurally sound housing to well over a million households across its seven-state service region.
SERCAP’s work focused on access to clean water, but the agency quickly realized that water is just one of many basic daily needs. Now SERCAP advocates to ensure all residents living in the agency’s service region have daily access to clean and affordable drinking water, working indoor plumbing and wastewater facilities, and safe and affordable housing in which to live.
CoBank is a cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving more than 76,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.
CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture, rural infrastructure and rural communities. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and also maintains an international representative office in Singapore.