ABINGDON, Va. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded the Washington County Service Authority (WCSA) an Aquarius award, a national honor recognizing excellence in the areas of innovative financing, partnership and problem solving, plus work to improve water quality and public health protection.
The program recognizes projects funded by the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), which encompasses a $44 billion federal-state partnership dedicated to protecting America’s public health. The program finances the construction and rehabilitation of critical drinking water infrastructure across the U.S.
States participating in the award program may only nominate a single DWSRF project. WCSA was selected as Virginia’s entry and won the national award in the Excellence in Community Engagement focus area.
WCSA was recognized for a collaborative, low-cost financing partnership that helped residents of Rattle Creek Road in Washington County receive safe, affordable drinking water through a water system extension to previously unserved existing residents. The partnership involved collaboration with DWSRF, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the Office of Drinking Water and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and included construction of approximately 6,000 linear feet of waterline and related appurtenances.
“This project demonstrates the innovation that can be achieved through community engagement,” says Kelly Ward, DWSRF director, Office of Drinking Water, Virginia Department of Health. “WCSA partnered with the community to plan and design a solution, and assist in the search for funding options for this project. The end result provided public health protection in the form of safe and reliable drinking water for this community.”
In late 2018, Rattle Creek Road residents approached WCSA about the possibility of bringing water to the community, and WCSA embarked on the process of bacteriological testing, soliciting user agreements for a potential water line extension project, and applying for funding to support the project costs. Funding was received for the project in 2018. Construction began in early 2019, and work to connect homes along Rattle Creek Road was completed that same year.
“We were excited to receive this funding, and we are honored to receive this award in recognition for our community engagement efforts for the Rattle Creek Road Water Line Extension Project,” says Robbie Cornett, general manager for WCSA. “It is always our goal to provide exceptional water and wastewater service to our existing customers, as well as expand our water distribution and wastewater collection systems to better serve the needs of the residents in our community. With approximately 3,727 existing countywide residents without access to public water, the funding enabled WCSA to complete the necessary improvements to provide our Rattle Creek neighbors with a reliable source of clean drinking water for the very first time.”
As a result of the project, community members who previously relied on wells and springs no longer have to worry about unsafe drinking water during periods of heavy rainfall or low water pressure, work to manually haul water from springs during power outages, or experience loss of access to water sources as a result of underground freezing during cold weather.
More About WCSA
The WCSA serves approximately 22,000 water connections and 2,300 wastewater connections in Washington County, Virginia, and surrounding areas. The water system consists of an estimated 900 miles of water line, a 12-million-gallon-per-day surface water treatment plant, a 3.1-million-gallon-per-day membrane filtration plant, two springs, one well, 29 pump stations and 22 water storage tanks. The wastewater system consists of approximately 70 miles of wastewater collection lines, 29 lift stations and two wastewater treatment plants. For more information about WCSA, visit www.wcsawater.com.