Free Technical Assistance Available for Underserved Communities Through Community Engineering Corps

[Editor’s Note:  Our colleagues at AWWA are hoping to spread the word on CE Corps as a no-cost alternative for disadvantaged or underserved communities with infrastructure issues. Please contact them if you know of small communities that would qualify for these volunteer services.]

The Community Engineering Corps® (CE Corps) combines the strengths of three allied organizations – American Water Works Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, and Engineers Without Borders USA – to assist underserved US communities in meeting their infrastructure needs and improving the quality of life for each of the communities’ members.

CE Corps volunteers work with US communities that do not have the financial resources to hire engineers. They work directly for communities, or for organizations that represent communities. All publicly owned water systems are eligible to apply for technical assistance. Private water systems held by a for-profit entity serving a nontransient community are also eligible as are private water systems held by nonprofit organizations serving private nonprofit businesses. Examples of such systems include a water system privately owned serving a mobile home park and a water system serving a nonprofit camp facility or school. However, a private water system held by a for-profit entity serving a for-profit business (e.g., a water system serving a restaurant) would not be eligible for technical assistance through CE Corps.

The project process always starts with the community. Once a CE Corps project team has been matched with a community, the team and community work together to develop a work plan and scope of work which describes the team that will work on the project, the schedule, the work tasks, and deliverables. Typical deliverables may include preliminary engineering reports, conceptual designs, permit applications or grant applications. The community may then use the information the project team has provided to hire appropriate contractors to implement the project or build the capital improvements. Any capital construction costs associated with the project shall be borne by the community; however, a community may elect to have volunteers stay engaged with it in the capacity of “owner’s representatives.”

One drinking water project example is the community of Cedar Gulch South Dakota that requested technical assistance with its water system because they cannot meet the SDWA limits for radium and gross alpha. The community has requested engineering assistance to determine which options give it the best return on investment. Cedar Gulch has been matched with a group of volunteers from Virginia to develop a work plan. Among several available alternatives, they are considering a new well, centralized treatment, point-of-use treatment, and possible regionalization with a neighboring community. The end goal of this project will be to bring the community’s water system back into compliance with SDWA requirements.

A second example is Delta Junction, Alaska, where the Snowed Inn RV and Trailer Park has applied for technical assistance to address violations listed on the community’s 2014 Sanitary Survey. The trailer park is home to 24 permanent residents but hosts seasonal tourists as well. The permanent residents are at risk of losing their homes if corrections are not made to the water and sanitation infrastructure. Deficiencies that could be corrected have been addressed; however, there are outstanding issues requiring the expertise of engineers. The applicant also requested assistance in identifying potential grants that could fund capital improvements to the water and sanitation systems. This project is currently open and CE Corps is accepting volunteer project team applications.

Community Engineering Corps is driven by communities motivated to take the next steps to improve their infrastructure systems. Communities can find technical assistance for their next project by submitting an application online.

Since the program launch in February 2014, CE Corps has seen successes across the US. Currently, more than 25 projects are in varying stages of progress. Several of these project communities were first introduced to CE Corps through their state primacy agencies.

Getting started:

  1. Visit the CE Corps website for FAQs, application instructions, and additional information
  2. Complete and submit the Community Application for a Community Engineering Corps Project through either cecinfo@ewb-usa.org or www.communityengineeringcorps.org

Contact:  Send your questions to Lindsey Geiger, Project Engineer, American Water Works Association at lgeiger@awwa.org

 

 

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