The University of New Mexico (UNM) recently announced that it is receiving around $3.7 million in funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assist in the operations and train the workforce of small drinking water and wastewater systems across the country.
In a press release posted on the school website, recipients of the EPA grant must provide technical assistance to small-scale water and wastewater systems to preserve strict compliance with regulations.
The technical support expected from these institutions will come in the form of site visits, circuit-rider, and multi-state regional technical assistance programs, and training focused on diagnosing and troubleshooting operational and compliance-related problems.
UNM Southwest Environmental Finance Center Director Heather Himmelberger will lead two projects funded through the EPA grant.
In the first project, UNM will train and assist water and wasterwater systems to ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act and to improve the systems’ financial and managerial capacity.
For the second, UNM will collaborate with small publicly-owned and decentralized wastewater systems to improve water quality.
The projects are now part of $17 million in funding that the EPA has rolled out to improve public health and environmental protection by working to provide small US communities with safe drinking water and ensure that wastewater is properly handled and treated.
“These smaller communities have a lot of unique challenges, including inadequate funding, deferred maintenance, an aging workforce, increasingly stringent regulations, and lack of an economy of scale,” Himmelberger said in the statement.
“This makes it a lot harder for these communities to comply with regulations and could impact their ability to provide the public with safe drinking water and ensure a healthy environment,” she added.
Himmelberger divulged that the center plans to work with utility employees and leadership, elected officials, and private owners of septic systems and the public to attain their objectives. UNM is looking to conduct training through nontraditional methods such as animations, podcasts, and social media.
“Small towns and rural America are the foundation that supports progress and prosperity in this country, and EPA is committed to investing in these vital areas,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.