It’s Personal…Scenic Pennsylvania Lake Community Celebrates Protecting the Environment for Earth Day with USDA Funding
As part of USDA’s weeklong celebration of the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, I had the pleasure of visiting Wayne County, Pennsylvania to announce funding that will bring improved water and wastewater services to residents and businesses of The Hideout, one of the state’s lake communities in the Pocono Mountains.
Thanks to congressional passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA Rural Development received an additional $150 million to help rural communities build or upgrade water and wastewater systems in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. We are pairing that grant money with an additional $232 million in regular funding to support 116 projects nationwide.
During my visit, I had the opportunity to talk with several long-time residents about the infrastructure projects. The residents’ personal commitment and leadership was on display as they talked passionately about the importance of the funding. Betty Sullivan, the charismatic Board President of the Roamingwood Water & Sewer Association, an agent of the South Wayne County Water & Sewer Authority, has been involved in the infrastructure improvement project for twenty years. She has a keen understanding of the environmental importance of the project for both the existing residents and for future generations that will live, work and play here.
Bob Taggart, the father of a 12-year-old son, has owned a home in the community for over 20 years. Impressed by the quality of the school system and the community’s amenities, Bob made the decision to move here permanently from the New York City suburbs just five years ago. As a former environmental specialist for private industry, he also understands the environmental importance of the project. He is interested in the potential for connecting adjoining communities to the new system to help further protect the waters surrounding the community. With the strong sense of community coupled with federal, state and local support, the future is promising for the growth of the community. The residents are all very appreciative of the Farm Bill funding that will help keep their water and sewer rates reasonable.
The work will be overseen by the South Wayne County Water and Sewer Authority, which is receiving a grant for more than $5 million and a loan of $8.4 million to replace a portion of a gravity sewer collection system. The second Earth Day project involves replacing leaking water lines in a section of the 30 year-old water distribution system. Rural Development is providing a $2.3 million grant and a loan of almost $4.6 million to help with that effort. By replacing the old water and sewer lines, the project will significantly improve services, making them more energy, cost and water efficient and preventing the Authority from a costly expansion project for more than 3,200 homeowners of the Hideout Community.
As Assistant Administrator for Water and Environmental Programs, it is not hard to see why Earth Day ranks high on my list of favorite anniversaries and holidays! I am especially grateful that the 2014 Farm Bill expanded our capacity to improve aging infrastructure in rural communities here in Pennsylvania and across the nation.