Newsletter - Spring 2014

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A Great Visit By Rural Water to Capitol Hill

By Shaun Fielder

A big thank you to VRWA President and our National Rural Water Association director, Ed Savage as well as VRWA Director Dick Desautels for their assistance and attendance along with me at the 2014 NRWA Rally this February in DC. For those of you who have been following the budget and appropriations battles the tone in DC was much more positive. Recall last fall there was a government shutdown and sequestration process. During this February visit the FY2014 budgets were already determined and the focus was to advocate for FY2015 rural water program funding. It appears the gridlock situation from last fall will not be the case in this most round of appropriations discussions. This being noted all of us need to continue to advocate for rural water.

Ed, Dick and I were lucky enough to personally catch up with Congressman Welch and Senator Sanders. Unfortunately we didn't make contact with Senator Leahy but did have time with his lead staffer on appropriations. During our given visits we delivered our 2013 VRWA Accomplishments item and I have to say our deliverables and the good work of all our team members in collaboration with many systems as well as many partners continues to illustrate a strong work product that is valuable and needed on an ongoing basis.

Here are a some of VRWA's accomplishments in 2013; conducted 125 training session attended by 1,090 personnel (from 722 systems), the total training contact hours distributed was an amazing 4,435hours. Our team members conducted 1,995 hours of onsite assistance covering all aspects of operations for water including source protection planning assistance and wastewater technical assistance. In addition 9 source protection plans were completed throughout the year. A personal thank you to all on our team members for such top notch performance.

During the DC visit we were focused on seeking support for FY2015 appropriations requests for rural water as a national program. Please be aware Senator Leahy, Senator Sander, and Congressman Welch continue to advocate for us and this is very much appreciated. Please consider relaying your own thank you directly them as well. A quick phone call to their office, a short hand written note will suffice. Whatever technique you choose it will be appreciated.

Vermont and Future Preparedness: National Incident Management Command Training Introductory ICS Level-100

By Phil Acebo

It's a sunny day now, wasn't this weekend, January 11-12, 2014. Temperature went up to 50°, started as freezing rain and then evolved into a substantial rain pouring down upon a landscape frozen deep due to little snow cover this year. The City of Montpelier currently is contending with ice jams, Route 2 was flooded yesterday near Richmond, and in the Lyndonville they too are contending with ice jams. Hopefully these current events will subside and no damage will be incurred by those living in our state.

This is January and we have eleven more months of weather to cope with. Fortunately, most of our weather doesn't cause us worry, but the potential for dangerous weather events and human error can and will happen. Also as I write, 300,000 residents in West Virginia are unable to use their public water system due to chemical contamination. Therefore because of potential for natural and human error we must plan, prepare, and practice. There is a process for this, National Incident Management System, NIMS.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, has implemented the National Incident Management System, NIMS, which identifies concepts and principles that answer how to manage emergencies from preparedness to recovery regardless of the cause, size, location, or complexity. NIMS provides a consistent, nationwide approach and vocabulary for multiple agencies or jurisdictions to work together to build, sustain and deliver the core capabilities needed to achieve a secure and resilient nation. As a first responder in the water/wastewater industry, understanding NIMS is a very important knowledge base for employees and citizens.

To increase this knowledge VRWA will be offering, in collaboration with the Department of Vermont Emergency Management Homeland Security, DEMHS, two introductory level 100 classes. These classes are 4 hours per day and will be FREE of charge. They will also be open to the general public and not solely for our industries. Therefore signing up as soon as possible is very important since space will be limited and you can sign up now.

The first class will be in Brattleboro at the Marlboro Graduate Center April 10 and 11 and the second May 29 and 30 in Waterbury at St. Leo's Hall. The day will be from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with lunch provided. 8 TCHs will be awarded for this two day mandatory attendance. Information regarding these trainings will also be in VRWA's second quarter training calendar which will be available the first week of March and is currently available at this link on our website If you have any difficulty registering contact Phil at 802-660-4988 ext 337 or by email and we'll help you out.

Freeze Ups in Municipal Water Systems

By Aaron Perez

As you all know, this winter has been an especially difficult one due to extended periods of below average temperatures. This has caused many problems within water distribution systems across our state; houses with burst pipes, broken water mains and frozen fire hydrants just to name a few. When repairs need to be made at extremely low temperatures it takes an added toll on equipment, personnel and budgets. So what can be done to avoid some of the headaches of a colder than average winter? Here are some tips for preventing some of the problems I commonly run across.

1. Mobile homes are prone to freeze ups and breaks. Reminder notices distributed in the fall to this part of your systems customers is a good way to help bring awareness to what can potentially be preventable repairs (including some uncomfortable and cold ones). Notices should include reminders such as checking to insure that heat tape is properly installed, that working water meters are in insulated jackets or otherwise protected from the elements and that the trailer skirting is in place. Often times trailer parks use plastic piping and have service lines running close to storage sheds and other structures. This often makes it difficult to locate and operate individual curb stops, so locating and mapping them in fair weather can be a real time saver.

2. Banks and property management companies don't always contact the local water department about homes that are abandoned or that have been foreclosed on. It can be a good idea to keep a sharp eye out for houses that look unoccupied and investigate when there are changes in metered usage. Often when I get a call about a system that is losing a relatively small amount of unaccounted for water in their distribution this time of year it is an unoccupied address that either has a heating source that has malfunctioned or has not been properly winterized.

3. If your system has "water blow offs" to prevent freeze ups at either residences or dead end lines it is a good idea to create a blow off management plan. This should include a list of all such address with names and contact numbers. A list of all freeze up problems that have occurred in the past can be helpful when determining potential future problems so you can proactively make repairs. Hand out notices explaining what rate the water should be run can be a great way to educate the home owners on the proper use of this anti-freezing method. This notice should also include a contact number for the water system so that the home owner can notify you when they start and end running their blow offs.

These are just a few tips that I hope will help save you time and money when it can count the most, when you're frozen!

My Vermont Externship Experience

By Paige Pramik

Hi, my name is Paige Pramik and I am a student from Ohio Wesleyan University. A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to participate in my school's Externship program, which ran from March 10th to March 14th 2014. This program is a week-long internship which allows OWU students to explore a potential career path, gain valuable job experience, and engage with OWU alumni working in various career fields and industries. The alumni I followed was Elizabeth Royer, who works as a Source Protection Specialist for the Vermont Rural Water Association.

The reason I wanted to take part in this specific Externship program is because I am very interested in environmental studies, water management, and water quality. I am a professional geology major and an environmental/physical geography minor. When I graduate from OWU, I intend on getting my masters degree in hydrogeology and someday pursue a career that has to do with the environmental side of this field, mainly tracking down source contaminations and working on their clean up. Because of this, I thought that taking tours of wastewater systems and learning about the treatment processes would be very beneficial to the work I want to do while getting my masters.

On March 10th, Liz took me to the Sugarbush Ski Resort, where we met their Environmental Compliance Coordinator, Eric Hanson. I really enjoyed meeting with him because he is a hydrologist (his work is closely related to that of a hydrogeologist) and because he gave me some ideas on the job opportunities and types of fields I can go in to with my major. While in Sugarbush, Eric took us on tours of the water and wastewater systems they have on the resort. We also got the chance to view the drilling process for one of their new water wells on site.

On March 11th, we sat in on one of the VT Rural Water Association classes, which was taught by Philip Acebo. The class covered water operation (class 3 and 4) and distribution certification. Because we only stayed for the first three hours of the class, I didn't learn much about the training for water and wastewater systems, but I did learn the importance that water operators have in these systems. Later in the afternoon, Liz took me on a tour of ECHO and downtown Burlington.

Because of weather complications, March 12th was the last day that we actually had meetings with people. Earlier in the day, we visited the Organic Apple Cider Factory (where I ate my first apple cider doughnut, yum!) and the Green Mountain Coffee Company. In the afternoon, we met with Wayne Graham and toured the Waterbury Wastewater Treatment Plant with Peter Krolczyk as our guide. Pete discussed how nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous were a big issue in wastewater treatment and how the plant was getting a new system that uses iron salts to remove the phosphorous from the water. After Waterbury, we visited the Shelburne Wastewater Treatment Plant. Chris Robinson took us on a tour of the plant and gave us a step-by-step explanation on how the treatment process works at Shelburne. He also explained to us how the entire Utility "water cycle" works, showing us how the cycle begins with us taking water from Lake Champlain and ends with us returning the water to Lake Champlain.

Overall, I was able to pull a lot of information out of the Externship experience. I definitely learned the importance of water and wastewater treatment, which I think can not only apply to Vermont, but also to the rest of the U.S. and the rest of the world. I also learned how important the water operators are in the treatment process and how seriously they take their jobs. Most of them really want what is best for the environment and the people, and they are even willing to risk their lives in order to make sure their plants are running properly! While talking to the different people I have met on my tours, I have become even more interested in water management and water quality and how it can relate to the environment. I am very grateful for the things I have learned and the people I have met while here in Vermont.

News on Tap

Annual Conference

Our Annual Conference is set for May 7 and 8 at the Lake Morey Resort. All of us at VRWA look forward to our annual golf tournament on the afternoon of May 7 and training, vendor exhibits and business luncheon on Thursday May 8. We are please to be having Vermont storyteller Willem Lange back with us again for the luncheon entertainment.


Dear Shaun,

I'm writing to let you know how much we appreciate the services of VRWA. We are a small community water system with limited resources and volunteer operators. We rely on VRWA for training and technical assistance. Without VRWA, we would be in a difficult position, trying to meet VErmont and EPA requirements without adequate expertise.

I particularly want to acknowledge the help that Aaron Perez has provided us. He is very knowledgeable and easy to work with. Several times in the past year he has consulted with us, either by phone or in person, and his help has been invaluable as we have tried to address various various issues with our systems.


David Cate
Water System Operator
Cobb Hill Cohousing

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