As Congress debates the federal budget for the remainder of this fiscal year and the next, RCAP is working to ensure that small water and wastewater systems are not left to fend for themselves. RCAP supports continued investment in the federal programs that enable rural communities to provide clean, affordable water to their residents. One such program that is on the chopping block is the EPA’s fund for technical assistance to small water and wastewater systems. RCAP supports this program because it allows technical assistance providers to go into rural communities and work with them to help them maintain compliance with federal clean water and drinking water regulations. Without these providers of technical assistance in these communities, many would be left to navigate the sometimes complex regulations on their own, which may have substantial health and environmental impacts. In an effort to ensure that this program continues to receive funding, RCAP sent the following letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the relevant subcommittees in the House of Representatives to request that they fully fund the account. A similar letter was sent to the relevant subcommittees in the Senate.
Text of the letter:
We write to ask that when the House considers the next appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2011 that you please include $15 million for the Technical Assistance program authorized under Section 1442(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act. This program was not included in the recently passed H.R. 1 or H.J. Res.44 and is necessary for small public water systems to achieve and maintain clean drinking water. Under this authority, qualified nonprofit organizations help rural communities comply with federal safe drinking water standards. The financial burden of maintaining safe water systems is quite high for small communities. According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessments, ratepayers in small communities bear four times the cost of operating and maintaining community water systems than do ratepayers in larger communities. The technical assistance authorized under this account should only be available on a competitive basis to qualified organizations such as the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP). RCAP is a national network of six regional organizations that has, for three decades, been helping to ensure rural communities can provide safe, reliable, clean water and affordable drinking water supplies. In coordination with state primacy agencies, RCAP provides technical assistance and training to small and very small communities to help them deal with drinking water and wastewater issues. RCAP provides a range of technical assistance to rural communities including training community boards; assistance on financial, technical and management requirements for operating water and waste water systems; and planning and developing new or improved systems. Virtually all of the systems out of compliance with federal drinking water standards are small with 3,300 or fewer users. These systems need assistance in meeting federal standards. For this reason, we urge you to include $15,000,000 in the Interior appropriations bill for EPA Technical Assistance authorized under Section 1442(e) of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Without this funding, rural water utilities will not have access to technical field experts who have assisted them with compliance of environmental laws and regulations for the past 35 years. Thank you for your consideration of this request. Robert B. Stewart Executive Director