by Josefa Torres
Comunidad Barrio Mamey is a very small, rural community water system located in the town of Patillas, Puerto Rico. When the community was incorporated in 1971, it provided drinking water to 27 families from a surface water source. The water system currently has 96 connections and is run primarily by volunteers. When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Puerto Rico Department of Health required the system to comply with Safe Drinking Water Act regulations, the community didn’t know where to start. In addition, residents were also confronted with meeting growing demands for drinking water in the community.
Due to the community’s noncompliance with the Surface Water Treatment Rule (SWTR), EPA issued an administrative order and asked RCAP Solutions, the Northeast RCAP (responsible for RCAP’s programs in Puerto Rico), to assist the community. The community also needed RCAP Solutions’ help because it was using an unfiltered surface water source and a well that couldn’t satisfy the demands of the community.
After much time and effort, RCAP Solutions was able to provide the community with the assistance necessary to comply with the regulations.
Every year at the annual conference of the EPA, American Water Works Association-Puerto Rico Water Environment Association and the Puerto Rico Department of Health Drinking Water division, awards are given to non-Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority drinking water systems in three categories.
Barrio Mamey Aqueduct is the only community that has won the award in all categories: third place for Work and Community Organization in 2008; second place for Significant Improvements Towards Compliance in 2011; and this year it won first place for Safe, Potable Water.
In gratitude for the assistance provided by RCAP Solutions Puerto Rico staff members Josefa Torres and Juan Campos, the community presented them with a recognition plaque during the conference’s award ceremony.
The plaque reads: “In recognition for your work and effort performed during this time for our community of Barrio Mamey, Río Chico Sector. Your endeavor and faith do not have limits to reach and achieve success to have quality water. Many thanks and lots of success, given today, May 9, 2012 at San Juan PR Convention Center.”
A resident of the Barrio Mamey community, Sharon Kidwell, addressed the audience stating: “When RCAP Solutions began assisting us with our drinking water several years ago, we didn’t know how an aqueduct should be run, how to supply safe drinking water, or how to meet local and federal regulations. Through the years and with Josefa and Juan, the community received drinking water regulatory advice, technical assistance, and the necessary education and training workshops. Their expertise and experience has enabled us to find affordable solutions to our water-infrastructure needs that will support economic growth in our community. Our aqueduct has benefited from the knowledge, guidance, and assistance provided by both. RCAP Solutions’ assistance has helped our community to gain the knowledge and skills needed to increase and meet the drinking water standards of the SDWA. By receiving this assistance, I have to say on behalf of Mamey community that our aqueduct is actually in complete compliance with the [Puerto Rico agencies and the EPA] and other government agencies. Josefa and Juan have played a major role in the success of receiving the first place award this year.”
Torres is the District Director for Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands with RCAP Solutions, the Northeast RCAP.