Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday celebrated Earth Day by announcing record support for 116 projects that will improve water and wastewater services for rural Americans.
The announcement is USDA's largest Earth Day investment in rural water and wastewater systems, the agency said.
Nearly $387 million is being awarded to 116 recipients in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Department is providing $150 million in grants through the 2014 Farm Bill plus $237 million in loans and grants from USDA's Water and Environmental Program.
Sixteen of the Earth Day projects are in areas of persistent poverty. Twenty-nine are in communities served by USDA's StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity.
USDA says many areas around the country have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, declines in snowpack, intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves which are causing communities to make more frequent repairs and upgrades to water systems.
Selected projects include building a water treatment facility and two water supply wells in McCrory, Ark.; rehabilitation of sanitary and stormwater sewer systems in Paintsville, Ky.; replacement of a contaminated well in San Joaquin, Calif.; and replacement of individual on-site waste treatment systems that currently discharge into the Sandusky Bay in Erie County, Ohio.
Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about the role each person can play to protect vital natural resources and safeguard the environment, USDA said. Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the event has expanded to include citizens and governments in more than 195 countries.
View a complete list of USDA water quality funding recipients.