Bethlehem residents will receive improved access to safe drinking water as a result of a $3,764,600 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan and grant package. USDA Rural Development State Director Ted Brady announced the new investment during an Earth Day celebration in Bethlehem Wednesday where local, state and federal officials touted the importance of protecting water sources across New Hampshire and investing in water infrastructure.
“Access to clean and safe drinking water is critical to the vitality of New Hampshire’s communities and the heath of the children and families who call the Granit State home,” said Michele Brooks, Chief of Staff for USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service. “The purity of this critical natural resource is guarded by many champions, from the stewards of municipal infrastructure, to the state agencies who act to ensure water quality standards, to the federal agencies which support local partners who protect the water sources and invest and operate delivery systems.”
The $3,764,600 USDA grant and loan package will improve the water filter system, update Bethlehem’s water storage reservoir, and install a metering system. Brady said the upgrades where prompted when the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services identified elevated levels of residual chemical disinfectant in Bethlehem’s drinking water. Brady said the upgrades will decrease the disinfectant required in the treatment process and improve the quality of Bethlehem’s water.
The U.S. Forest Service highlighted the New Hampshire Drinking Water Quality Improvement Partnership during the celebration Wednesday. The program is an effort to pool agency resources to improve water quality in and around the White Mountain National Forest.
“Maintaining a safe, secure and adequate water supply was one of the founding priorities for establishing National Forests in the Eastern United States,” said Rogers Simmons, Natural Resources Staff Officer for the Forest Service. ‘Six communities draw their water supplies from public lands with another 68 smaller public water systems drawing groundwater from National Forest System lands managed by the US Forest Service in New Hampshire and Maine. We seek to ensure that our management activities, including both timber harvest and recreation use, continue to meet this important need.”
USDA Rural Development funded the Bethlehem Village District’s improvements through the Water and Environmental Program. Since 2009, USDA Rural Development has invested $129.5 million to bring improved water and waste water services to over 100,000 New Hampshire residents.
USDA, through its RD mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of $212.8 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas. For more information on Rural Development visit the Vermont/New Hampshire Rural Development website (www.rd.usda.gov/nh or www.rd.usda.gov/vt ) or contact USDA RD at (802) 828-6000.