As part of USDA's Earth Day celebration, USDA announced support for projects that will improve water and wastewater services and benefit the environment across the country.
"It is critical that communities across the country have reliable, clean and abundant water," said Vilsack. "These water and wastewater projects demonstrate how USDA is helping provide critical services to rural communities that have the added benefit of protecting the environment. This Earth Day, USDA is commemorating 150 years of working with Americans to protect the land. In the years to come, we will help address the changing needs of agriculture and rural America – and find strategies for managing our public and working lands that promote a strong middle class today while preserving the environment for generations to come.
In all, 54 water and wastewater projects in 33 states will be funded. Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about the role each person can play to protect vital natural resources and safeguard the environment. Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the event has expanded to include participation by citizens and governments in more than 195 countries.
As part of today's announcement, USDA Rural Development is providing more than $150.8 million to improve water quality and provide a safe and healthy environment for rural Americans. In addition, nearly $22.5 million is being invested for technical assistance training through the Technical Assistance and Solid Waste Management programs.
For example, in Maine, the City of Old Town received funding for sewer collection system upgrades which will significantly improve the collection system and reduce infiltration and inflow. The City of Old Town is a rural community located adjacent to the Penobscot River. The municipal wastewater system serves approximately 1,800 residential, 120 commercial and 15 public facilities. The project will improve water quality in the Penobscot River and provide environmental benefits to this important watershed and surrounding communities.
The City of Arcola in Texas currently has no public water system and residents use private wells for drinking water. Fort Bend County has noted that the private wells have poor water quality. In addition, the City cannot provide fire protection to their residents or commercial clients which make it difficult for properties within the City to get affordable insurance due to lack of fire prevention.
Eaton County, Mich., the City of Potterville received funding to install a storm sewer system and to address an aging sewer infrastructure. The sewer system dates back to 1967. Through a combination of replacement and rehabilitation investments the City is addressing significant environmental, sanitation, and health concerns.
In addition to announcing new investments, USDA is highlighting past Earth Day projects. The projects which are completed or near completion demonstrate how USDA investments help improve not only the environment but the quality of life in rural communities. For example, on April 16, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook attended an Earth Day dedication ceremony for the City of Frostburg's new hydroelectric generating station which began operation in December 2011. The City is estimating an annual savings of $29,000 per year as a result of electricity created from falling water that is pumped to the hydroelectric plant from Piney Dam. Construction work has also been completed on water transmission mains that allow the City to pump more water more efficiently.
Funding for each project is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant, or loan/grant agreement. A complete list of water and wastewater award recipients is located here.