< Back to all stories

Tribal Circuit Rider Program in Wisconsin

July 20, 2010 |

By: Kathy Cartwright and Bill Brown

Wisconsin is home to 11 federally-recognized American Indian Tribes and bands. RCAP serves these tribes through the services provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, USEPA’s Small Community Wastewater and Drinking Water Technical Assistance and Training, and USDA Technitrain grants. Wisconsin and Minnesota also provide services through the Tribal Circuit Rider Program funded by the EPA-Region 5.

As independent nations, American Indian Tribes are not subject to State regulations, and the EPA acts as the primacy agency. For the past 3 years, Wisconsin RCAP has partnered with Midwest Assistance Program (MAP) to provide technical services to Wisconsin and Minnesota tribes through the EPA—Region 5 grant. Both states have one Tribal Circuit Rider who works directly with tribes. Jason Gore serves the Minnesota tribes and Richard Lawe serves the Wisconsin tribes.
Prior to the start of each year, participants meet to discuss activities to pursue during the upcoming year. Project activities for the 2009-2010 year were discussed at a meeting in October at the Ho-Chunk Lodge in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Attending were twenty participants representing Wisconsin RCAP, MAP, EPA-Region 5, Indian Health Service, Michigan RCAP, and Michigan Intertribal Council. During the meeting the following activities were identified for the program in 2009-2010:
  1. Assist tribes to develop Cross-Connection ordinances and manuals for adoption by the Tribal Councils. This is in follow up to the Cross-Connection Inspections that were conducted last year.
  2.  Conduct a pilot project Energy Audit at one tribal water/wastewater system.
  3. Wisconsin and Michigan RCAP will each assist one tribe to learn the CUPSS (Check Up Program for Small Systems) program.
To date, 290 Cross Connection Control Surveys were conducted for 11 tribes. Locations, observations and recommendations for 2,471 devices were noted. 93 testable backflow prevention assemblies were identified. RCAP staff distributed copies of the
reports to Tribal Utility Managers, Sanitarians, and Indian Health Service staff, and continue to work with Tribal U 

tility staff; interpreting inspection reports,reviewing Cross Connection Control Manual(s), explaining backflow prevention devices, and reviewing/updating Cross Connection Control sections of Tribal Utility Ordinances.

The pilot Tribal Utility Energy Assessment Project is underway with two participating WI Tribes, the Bad River Chippewa Band and the Forest County Potawatomi. RCAP staff has collected one year of consecutive monthly utility bills from each tribe, looking at energy usage at each facility.RCAP staff, together with Tribal Utility and IHS staff, have conducted
initial inspections of water and wastewater facilities listing energy use concerns. An additional activity will include a FOE Level 1 Energy Assessment at the participating Tribal facilities. Existing conditions and energy usage will be analyzed and  ecommendations made for energy conservation through equipment and physical plant modifications and/or operations & maintenance procedural changes. A follow-up, noting changes made and resulting changes in energy use, will be made. Upon completion it is hoped that the pilot study will serve as a model for other water and wastewater facilities (and perhaps other public facilities) in rural Wisconsin.