The Midwest Technology Assistance Center for Small Public Water Systems (MTAC) is comprised
of a consortium led by the University of Illinois and the Illinois State Water Survey, in
partnership with the land grant universities of Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota,
Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin. MTAC serves small public water systems and public
systems serving Indian Tribes. The participation of each state is led by its Water Resources
Research Institute (WRRI), established under authority of the Water Resources Research Act
of 1964 on the campus of the land grant university as a federal-state partnership to conduct
applied research and technology transfer.
This Center cooperates closely with other regional technology assistance centers established by the USEPA, and with other partner agencies and organizations in order to ensure efficient response to the highest priority needs of small public water systems and Indian Tribal systems in the Midwest.
Problems facing Small Public Water Systems in the Midwest:|
The Midwest contains many small public water systems. The 10 states of USEPA Regions V and VII contain 21.3 percent of the small and very small community water systems and 38.4 percent of the non-community public water systems in the United States. In USEPA Region V, more than 97 percent of the public water systems are classified as small or very small, and in Region VII, more that 94 percent of the systems are small or very small in size. In addition, the Midwest has 1,061 public systems in the medium-size (3,301-10,000 population) category that face similar challenges to those of the smaller systems.
The agricultural Midwest has distinctive water supply problems. The rural Midwest is
characterized by the dominant presence of intensive row crop agriculture. Naturally occurring toxic minerals, such as arsenic and radium, together with the widespread use of agricultural chemicals and irrigation result in special challenges to many small public water systems. Occurrences of pesticide and nitrate contamination in public water supplies are especially common in the Midwest. Technologies for addressing these problems can be costly and management-intensive.
Pesticide and nitrate contamination - Pesticide and nitrate contaminants exceeding federal standards have been detected in many public water supplies in the Midwest, predominantly in rural areas utilizing shallow ground water or surface water. These contaminants present treatment challenges that can be very costly and require responses that comprehensively address both source water selection and treatment technologies.
Distribution system management and maintenance - Small public water systems in the Midwest are facing serious problems of infrastructure maintenance and replacement. Many community systems are very old, experiencing significant corrosion, leakage, stagnancy, and bacterial proliferation, and are in need of major upgrades. Many systems are not sized or managed adequately to support fire suppression as well as household needs, as they are often limited by the 2- or 4-inch pipes installed decades ago. Expansion of these systems has often been haphazard, with dead-end pipes adding to the water quality and quantity problems. Sizing the systems to provide fire flow, however, may increase quality problems due to slow flow during routine use periods. Small communities need help in identifying technologies that meet both the routine and emergency needs, such as dry hydrants. In addition, they need assistance in assessing the adequacy of their current water sources under future regulatory, demand, and extreme climatic conditions.
Lead and Copper Rule compliance - The Midwest has a predominance of groundwater supplies, many of which have high concentrations of dissolved inorganic carbon and pH in the 7.2-7.5 range. These waters have proven prone to corrosion that can result in high concentrations of soluble copper and, to a lesser extent, lead. While treatment solutions are available, they can be costly, difficult to control, and subject to secondary complications. Many small communities lack a technical understanding of metal testing and corrosion inhibition strategies.
Efficient technology management and maintenance - Small communities need access to systems and technologies that can support reliable performance with realistic staffing and training requirements, including shared systems for monitoring, operation, and management. Among the needs in this area are improved record keeping, more systematic maintenance scheduling, and system diagnosis to prevent backflow and cross connections.
Financing technology adoption - Small communities lack good information on financing arrangements and sources for investments in treatment improvements, particularly where cutting edge technologies appear to best fit a community's needs. Many of the needs in this area are quite basic, such as appropriate pricing structures and billing systems.
Technology assessment for local conditions - Small communities need technologies scaled to their size and water conditions. Small communities lack the technical capacity to select and optimize technologies to meet the needs of particular source water and distribution system conditions. Obtaining this capability is essential in order for the managers of small communities to interact effectively with consultants and vendors and to qualify for assistance under the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).
Radionuclides and Arsenic - Many small groundwater supplies in the Midwest have violated the Maximum Contaminant Level for Arsenic, Radium (226Ra and 228Ra), alpha-emitters, and beta and photon emitters. While treatment technologies exist, solutions are often expensive at small scales, require close supervision by qualified operators, and result in concentrated wastes that create disposal problems. Small systems need assistance in selecting suitable treatment technologies and in planning for the disposal of contaminated liquid and solid wastes.
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