Custer, SD, Jan 25, 2012 -- The Black Hills of South Dakota are often associated with regal presidential heads and lush greenery. In a recent wastewater tour sponsored by South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems (SDARWS) and wastewater engineers from South Dakota plants in Summerset, Box Elder, Custer, Keystone, and Hill City, the hills became a region of choice. Jerry Hemeyer, Wastewater Technician for SDARWS, USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie M. Meeks and other Rural Development staff, along with congressional office staffs and city mayors enjoyed a tour of five wastewater treatment plants located in the West River communities.
The tour gave all participants a greater appreciation of the integral service that wastewater collection and treatment facilities provide in our daily lives. All but one of the plants had been funded through USDA Rural Development’s Water and Wastewater Disposal grant and loan program. While each plant treated waste differently; whether through a semi mechanical plant with aeration as in the Custer plant or settling ponds in Box Elder, the plants employed hard working employees that must have a varied mix of skill sets.
Meeks states, “The cost of constructing the treatment plants and installing pipe to each residence or business is in the millions. In any of these communities residents cannot afford to pay for the total cost which is why USDA in partnership with state and city governments steps in to assist small communities.”
Guided by strict environmental rules, the plants go through processes that result in safe and sanitary water that is released back into streams and used as irrigation for golf courses as is done in Custer.
SDARWS’s mission is to provide the highest quality services that meet the needs of and supports the collective efforts of the water and wastewater membership.
USDA Rural Development serves as the lead federal agency for rural development needs by offering financial and technical assistance to individuals, businesses, and communities. USDA Rural Development programs include funding for day care centers, fire trucks and other community facility projects; the purchase, construction or repair of homes; loans and guarantees to rural businesses to save or create jobs and renewable energy; and loans and grants for water and sewer utility projects.
USDA Rural Development has eight offices in the state serving South Dakotans living in rural areas and communities. Office locations include a state office in Huron, along with area offices in Aberdeen, Mitchell, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Watertown, and Yankton.
Further information on this and other programs offered by USDA Rural Development is available by calling (605) 352-1100, by visiting www.rurdev.usda.gov/sd or at any local area office.