This Earth Day I visited the rural Maine community of Hartland, population 1,782, for its 1st Annual Earth Day Celebration. I was greeted by Hartland’s Interim Town Manager Christopher Littlefield, and the smiling children, residents, town and wastewater officials who welcomed me to their community for a special Earth Day announcement.
I was pleased to join partners including Maine’s Congressional Staff and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to announce significant USDA Rural Development funding in the amount of $29.7 million to fund seven Maine wastewater treatment facilities. Included in the announcement is the Town of Hartland which will receive $1,600,000 through USDA Rural Development for essential upgrades to the wastewater treatment facility.
This landmark Earth Day investment will contribute significantly to preserving Maine’s pristine waterways and environment for the state’s residents, assisting them with access to properly working utilities, and supporting Maine’s economy as it relates to tourism and community capacity building. In addition, the project will support a tannery which employs approximately 120 people in the area adding to the economic impact of this significant project.
The other communities receiving funding are:
- Town of Danforth
- Stonington Water Company
- The City of Gardiner
- The Town of Oxford
- The Town of Van Buren
- Wiscasset Water District
In Maine communities, like the rest of the nation, wastewater facilities are aging and in need of upgrades. According to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, out of 160 Maine wastewater facilities, 120 of them have known needs for upgrades, with over $1 billion worth of need.
But where there is a need in rural communities, there is an answer. USDA Rural Development is facing the challenge head on, investing a total of $184.3 million in 61 water and wastewater facilities in Maine since Fiscal Year 2008 through programs such as the Water and Waste Disposal Direct Loan and Grant Programs and Technical Assistance and Training Programs. Through announcements like the one in Hartford, we will continue to strengthen and sustain rural wastewater facilities in need.
This announcement is USDA’s largest Earth Day investment in rural water and wastewater systems. Nearly $387 million is being awarded to 116 recipients in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Department is providing $150 million in grants through the 2014 Farm Bill plus $237 million in loans and grants from USDA’s Water and Environmental Program.