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Our Land. Our Water. Our Future. - Earth Day 2016

Posted by Lisa Mensah, Under Secretary for Rural Development in Rural
Apr 20, 2016
The Vergennes-Panton Water District along Lake Champlain in Vergennes, VT
The Vergennes-Panton Water District along Lake Champlain in Vergennes, VT was able to upgrade the city's water treatment plant through a Water and Environmental Programs (WEP) loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) on Sep. 18, 2013. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

This Friday marks the forty-sixth observance of Earth Day, and our USDA Rural Development family is celebrating with a week of project dedications and groundbreakings across the nation – projects that have a direct and positive impact on the ecology and environment of our rural communities.

This week, Secretary Vilsack announced sixty projects that will improve water quality and safety in 33 states across the country, and what he said in his announcement deserves special emphasis; building and maintaining water infrastructure creates jobs, boosts the economy, and provides rural families with safe, reliable water and wastewater facilities that improve the environment.

I’ll get to see one of these projects first-hand this Friday when I’ll be heading north to the Town of Williamstown, Vermont. This community of just over 3,000 residents in central Vermont is making upgrades to its aging wastewater treatment facility to stay in compliance with Vermont’s new water quality standards that take effect later this summer.

To make the project happen, Williamstown sought USDA Rural Development’s support to perform the upgrades necessary for the system to continue to serve its businesses, institutions and residents. The Town of Williamstown received funding from USDA Rural Development to perform the upgrades necessary to keep the plant compliant, operational and cost effective for the residents and small businesses. As it stands now, the plant’s treated wastewater flows into a small stream whose ecosystem has been overwhelmed by residual nitrogen and phosphorus in the treated water. The proposed project will extend the outflow into the larger Stevens Branch of the Winooski River, where it can be safely absorbed.

The impact of this project goes beyond protecting the ecosystem of a single stream or a small town’s bottom line. USDA RD’s is committed to the economic health of rural America and the environment is central to that goal.  The father of Earth Day, the late Senator Gaylord Nelson, eloquently made the point that our economic health goes hand-in-hand with our environmental health.  He said, “All economic activity is dependent upon that environment and its underlying resource base of forests, water, air, soil, and minerals.”

USDA Rural Development is proud to play our part by supporting projects that impact rural communities across the nation, and over the next few days we’ll highlight more of them as we approach Earth Day 2016.  It’s one more way we’re committed to building a better future for our rural communities.

Category/Topic: Rural