drinking water resources

Forum Targets Basic Water Needs in Appalachia

by Lori Reynolds

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Big Stone Gap, Virginia is about as far as you can go in EPA’s mid-Atlantic Region.  But it was worth every mile of travel to help communities in Appalachia find ways to pay for badly-needed water and wastewater infrastructure.  The EPA Water Finance Forum was all it was intended to be – and so much more.

The forum held in mid-June was designed as a peer-to-peer type of transfer with panels of local presenters sharing information about funding opportunities, innovative solutions, and success stories.

I was anxious to meet the many people I had spoken to and corresponded with over the prior four months while planning for the forum.

Upon arriving, I was pleasantly greeted by mountains which seemed to rise up at my feet; the beauty of the area is undeniable.  Some from the EPA regional office asked, “Why Appalachia?”  The answer was simple.  Appalachia is a big part of EPA’s mid-Atlantic Region, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and all of West Virginia.  And it’s an area where the water and wastewater infrastructure needs are great and the challenges complex (rural area, with low population density, mountainous terrain, difficult geology, and limited water and economic resources).

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Courtesy: Eric Vance, EPA

Although progress has been made, there are still homes and families in Appalachia that do not have public water and reliable sewage treatment.  Yes, in the year 2016, there are citizens living in the United States of America where raw sewage runs directly into streams.  I can hardly imagine a life without readily available water from the tap and indoor plumbing to flush away waste.

A presenter at the forum complemented the challenges by describing the “mountain ethic” as “see a problem, come together and find a solution,” which put into words what I sensed.  Highlights about the value of water and stories about its impact on the quality of life recalled for me why I dedicated my career to water protection.  I’m excited about the Water Finance Forum marking the beginning of a longer relationship and commitment to help people and communities, who often feel forgotten, not only acquire, but sustain reliable water and wastewater services.

In the coming weeks and months, we will have an opportunity to strengthen the connections we made through the Water Finance Forum.  As one presenter put it, “the work takes commitment, dedication, and a willingness to work hard.”  Since these are the very same qualities demonstrated by the people who proudly call Appalachia home, I’m confident that our investments in the Appalachian Region will succeed.

 

About the Author:  Lori Reynolds works in the region’s Office of Infrastructure and Assistance, which provides funding to states for water and wastewater infrastructure.  She is naturally drawn to water, working in the Water Protection Division, swimming in pools and open water as part of a Master’s swim team, and as an Aquarius.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday:Getting the Word Out About EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Research

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Dayna Gibbons

As far as I’m concerned, daylight savings time could not have come at a better time. Last week, EPA released its final study plan to research the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. As a member of the science communications team, part of my job was to help ensure the study plan and a host of supporting material—from a press release to web site updates to @EPAresearch “tweets”—were ready so we could share the news. There was a lot to do, and by the weekend I was grateful to have an extra hour of sleep!

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” as it’s more commonly called, is a stimulus technique that gas producers use to extract natural gas out of sources such as coalbeds and shale formations. (It’s also used for other applications, including oil recovery.) Many are hopeful that fracking will play a key role in unlocking natural gas from reserves across large areas of the U.S. Yet, concerns have been raised about the impact such practices might have on drinking water resources.

Toward the end of 2010, Congress directed EPA to conduct research to examine the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. Since then, EPA has engaged with the public, the scientific community, and interested stakeholders to ensure public input into the study’s design where appropriate. The draft plan went through a public comment period and was peer-reviewed by EPA’s Science Advisory Board to ensure a scientifically sound approach.

EPA’s study will answer questions across the full hydraulic fracturing water lifecycle. This means that the data our scientists collect will help us understand the potential impacts on water resources from the beginning to end of the fracking process—from using large amounts of ground and surface waters, to drilling activities and the use of chemicals and, finally, the management, disposal, and treatment of used water.

The first study results will be released in 2012, and the final report will be released in 2014. In addition, EPA will regularly host webinars—including today at 3:30pm and tomorrow at 2:30pm—and provide updates throughout the study in order to keep the public informed of the progress. I’m sure that will continue to keep me busy, but at least I have an extra hour of sleep under my belt.

About the author: Dayna Gibbons has worked in communications at EPA since 2002.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.