Essential Celebrates Earth Day: Reports Progress Toward ESG Commitments

 

As a utility company whose job it is to protect and provide natural resources for communities across the nation, Earth Day holds a special meaning to many of us at Essential.

Essential announced a number of sustainability commitments over the last 14 months, and we released our 2019 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report in late 2020. And since Earth Day supports efforts made toward protecting the environment, there’s no better time to provide updates on our sustainability progress:

  • We are pleased to report that we have successfully achieved a 3% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as of December 2020, which is on track for our 2035 goal to reduce Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 60% from our 2019 baseline. This 60% reduction is roughly equivalent to removing 76,000 cars from the road each year.

  • We are also on schedule to achieve 100% wind power through Green-e Renewable Energy Certificates for our Aqua operations in Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania by early 2022. Switching to renewable energy options throughout our footprint will help drive the progress toward our emissions reduction target.

Our obligation to uphold these ESG initiatives drives us to continue exploring sustainable and productive approaches to business. We’re confident that our environmental commitments coupled with our team’s passion for providing exceptional service and resources to our customers puts us on a constructive path for advancement.

Achieving these ESG goals –  to sustain and better the environment –  is nothing short of a team effort. But as we all know, to make an even greater impact in our communities, we must also support local organizations who are working passionately toward similar sustainability goals. This is why the Essential Foundation donated to two sustainability nonprofits this year: the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund, which funds grants to improve the quality and quantity of water in the Schuylkill River, and TreeVitalize, which provides grants to communities to increase tree cover in Pennsylvania. Aqua’s Pennsylvania operations have been partnered with TreeVitalize for more than 15 years and have restored about 1,000 acres with native species by planting over 170,000 trees and shrubs.

Together, we make a difference every day and I want to thank every Essential employee for their commitment to sustainability and passion for upholding Essential’s values.

Please stay tuned for a further expanded and updated ESG report this summer, which for the first time will include Peoples’ operations!

 

 

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4 DIY Water Experiments for Kids of All Ages

Summer may be around the corner, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning! There's no need for a science lab or fancy equipment with these DIY experiments—everything you need is probably in your kitchen cabinets. 

 

Keep reading to check out these water-ful experiments, and get ready to learn all about the science operating behind the scenes.

 

 

1.Homemade Lava Lamp

 

What you need

  • A wide container
  • Vegetable oil
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Alka-seltzer tablet

 

How to do it 

  1. Fill your container about ¾ of the way with vegetable oil.
  2. Fill the remaining space with water and leave just 2–3 inches at the top. Notice how the water falls through the vegetable oil and settles at the bottom due to having a higher density.
  3. After the water has settled, add about 10 drops of food coloring to create the “lava.” These droplets will fall through the oil and sit on top of the water before bursting through the line.
  4. Drop in an Alka-seltzer tablet and watch the magic happen!

 

Why it works

The Alka-seltzer tablet produces carbon dioxide gas bubbles once it hits water. Since the combination of water and air is less dense than the oil, these bubbles rise to the top, which looks like a lava lamp when mixed with color! Once they reach the surface, the bubbles break and the gas is released into the air while the water sinks back down to the bottom. Then, the whole process starts over again!

 

2. Multicolor Flowers

 

What you need

 

  • One cup
  • White flowers
  • Water
  • Food coloring

 

How to do it

  1. Cut the stems of your white flowers. Ensure the cut is slanted and the stems are fairly short to help the color move quickly from stem to petal.
  2. Place the cut flowers into a cup of warm water.
  3. Add about 30 drops of food coloring to the water and wait. The color change can take about an hour, or you can set them aside at night and wake up to rainbow flowers in the morning!

 

Why it works


The star of this experiment is capillary action, which is the ability of liquids to travel through small spaces despite the direction of gravity. Even though water normally flows downwards, capillary action helps it flow up the flower stems. This is the same magic that happens when water gets drawn into a sponge and when your hair retains moisture after you get it wet.

 

3. Tornado in a Jar

What you need 

  • One mason jar
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of dish soap
  • 1 teaspoon of vinegar
  • Glitter or small objects (optional)

 

How to do it

  1. Fill the mason jar with water and leave about an inch of space at the top.
  2. Pour in the dish soap and vinegar, then add any glitter.
  3. Secure the lid and swirl the jar for about 5 seconds. Set it down on the table to watch the tornado appear!

 

Why it works

When you swirl the jar, you’re creating a vortex just like in a real hurricane! The centripetal force causes the water to spin around that vortex, which looks just like a mini tornado.

 

4. Skittles Art 

 

What you need

  • Skittles
  • Plates
  • Water

How to do it 

  1. Take out your Skittles and pick which colors you want to use.
  2. Grab a plate and arrange your chosen Skittles around the edge of the plate. Try creating a pattern, like alternating colors.
  3. Carefully pour water in the middle of the plate until it reaches all the Skittles and just barely covers them.
  4. Sit back and watch your candy turn into art!

Why it works

The key to this experiment is stratification. This word is used to describe the way things are arranged, just like how the Skittle colors stay side by side instead of mixing. Each section of dissolving food coloring creates a new solution when it mixes with the water. This means that each section has a different density than the one next to it. This creates barriers and prevents them from mixing.

 

Ready to roll up your sleeves and learn something new with the whole family? Take a look at what’s available in your kitchen and decide which experiment you can do today!

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Aqua Illinois Steps Up and Assists Aqua Texas During a Historic Event

 

When Texas was hit with unprecedented weather, the Aqua family stepped up in a big way! Hear from Aqua employees Andy Price, Kyle Denault and Patrick Wren, all of whom led teams of employees from Illinois to Texas during the crisis to assist those in need.

 

From the Desk of Andy Price, Area Manager – Illinois

Greetings from Texas! 

I wanted to take a moment to update you all on all the tremendous work our Aqua Illinois team has done to help Aqua Texas. As I’m sure you are all aware Tim Reed, Noel Dean, Lorin Kinney and I left Danville, Illinois on Feb. 18 to help aid Texas after a historic weather event.

Our team, along with others from the central and northern divisions, arrived late Saturday night and hit the ground running Sunday morning. Apart from the unprecedented weather, we were also faced with the challenge of a shortage of fuel and food. After several failed attempts, we were able to find both, despite the melting and refreezing of snow that made driving extremely dangerous. SAFETY FIRST!

Our first stop was north of San Antonio in the Wimberly office. With supplies and inventory in tow, we met with Brent Reeh and Brian Robinson to receive our marching orders. Customers in this area had been without water and/or on a boil order for several days. Tim, Noel, and I spent most of the next few days searching and repairing small and large customer leaks. I was told by Field Supervisor Brian Robinson that one of the leaks Tim and Noel identified was the difference between losing the system and keeping them in water. 

Brian later texted me “I sincerely appreciate your help, I know you and your crew weren't out there fixing leaks like you thought you were going to be doing but what you did do freed our people up to focus on individual customer calls and everything else. What the canyon crew found was the difference between us staying in water and running out. You all were a huge help at a critical time. It was great to meet each of you as well. I'm sure will end up on a conference call or meeting together in the future. Good to be able to make the connection. "Hey, I know that guy. Thanks again.”

Next, Lorin and I spent the next few days delivering water to several towns in the Austin region of the service territory and helping replace PVC pipes. By doing this, we were able to get wastewater plants back up and running.

As our time here continued, we were able to witness the work we had been putting in was paying off. Water was getting turned back on, boil orders were being lifted, and pumpage was coming back to normal. All our work was making a difference, and it was a truly fulfilling feeling.

Over the following days, all our assisting Illinois crews moved on to their next assignments, while Tim and Noel continued more of the same work in new areas. Lorin and I met with Field Supervisor Nola Ferris, and spent some time learning about the issues at hand in the Granbury TX divisions. Lorin worked alongside a local operator visiting wellsite’s and fixing leaks, while I worked with Nola with water loss issues in their divisions.

Morale was high, and we are enjoying the opportunity to assist where we can. The people in the areas we assisted could not have been more gracious for our help. 

As we learned that we would be released from our duties, we prepared for our 14-hour journey back up to Illinois. We hope you all will continue to keep our brothers and sisters down in Texas in your thoughts as they continue to navigate this historic weather event.

Special thanks also go out to Kyle Denault, Brent Smith, Lucas Yoakum, Nick Ippolito, Pat Wren and Mario Ingoglia, who also traveled to Texas and helped with the restoration efforts.

-Andy

Aqua Illinois East Central Division: Lorin Kinney, Tim Reed, Andy Price and Noel Dean 

From the Desk of Patrick Wren, Field Supervisor – Illinois

I wanted to take a moment to highlight all the tremendous work Aqua Illinois employees did during their time helping the Texas Ice Storm.

I arrived late Friday night, slept off the long drive, and we were off spreading out all throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth footprint helping wherever we could.

I spent the entirety of Saturday working in one single system trying to restore water service to customers without internal plumbing leaks. Through various attempts and movements within the system, we were able to restore 75% of the customers in the system. I continued the same work in more systems throughout the weekend, helping wherever I could to restore our customers’ water systems.

Monday was the most rewarding day of the trip; through our efforts we were able to restore two complete systems. Along with that, I was able to assist our Aqua Texas customers in filling gallons of water at our water trucks. Even after eight days of no water, our customers were all a pleasure to speak with and were extremely grateful thankful for all our hard work. One customer even noticed my Illinois plates and profusely thanked me for coming so far to help.

I continued more of the same work throughout the remainder of my time in Texas. Turning on water systems one at a time and helping our Aqua customers in any way they need. I cannot reiterate enough how much of a pleasure it was to interact with our customers.

As I reflect on my time in Texas, I often think about how great the Aqua customers were. I never heard a single complaint and they were so thankful for the work we were doing. I’ve heard of the popular saying “Everything is bigger in Texas” and I can confidently say that is true for the people’s compassion and understanding.

Special thanks also go out to Mario Ingoglia, who traveled down to Texas to assist in the Texas Ice Storm.

-Patrick

Aqua Illinois Northern Division: Mario Ingoglia and Pat Wren (photo taken prior to Covid-19.)

From the desk of Kyle Denault, Distribution Technician – Illinois

As soon as I heard of the storm in Texas, I immediately felt the urge to help. With suitcases, work boots, and a sense of urgency, my team and I abruptly headed south.

After a roughly 18-hour drive we arrived in Texas, although, we did have to do a double take with all the snow on the ground when we arrived. After a short sleep in our hotel, we geared up and headed toward the northern Houston suburb of Spring to get started in the recovery.

Right away on Sunday morning we were able to assist, repairing many exposed plumbing structures and frozen meters. My team and I continued more of this work throughout our reminder of my time in Texas, traveling throughout systems while distributing bottled water to our customers. Meeting our customers and assisting them in any way possible was extremely rewarding, I never heard a complaint once and they were all extremely thankful for all the help we were providing.

As I was dismissed from my time in Texas, I headed back to Illinois and powered through the entire drive. I knew I was home when my truck’s thermometer said 25 degrees.

Special thanks also go out to Brent Smith, Lucas Yoakum and Nick Ippolito who also traveled down to Texas to assist in the storm as well. 

-Kyle

Aqua Illinois Central Division: Nick Ippolito, Lucas Yoakum, Kyle Denault and Brent Smith

A special thanks goes out to all of our Texas employees who responded to the crisis, your efforts are not unnoticed and we are extremely thankful for all of your hard work.

 

 

 

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Reflecting on the Past Year of Essential Utilities

This week marks two significant milestones—the one-year anniversary of bringing Aqua and Peoples together under Essential Utilities, and the one-year mark of operating through the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a milestone that has arrived much more quickly than any of us could’ve possibly imagined.

A year ago, just as we prepared to bring our two companies together, our way of life abruptly and dramatically changed. In fact, the day that Aqua and Peoples officially came together under Essential on March 16, 2020 was the same day that many of our employees began to work from home due to the pandemic. A day that was meant to be an exciting celebration was suddenly shadowed by the uncertainty of a virus that was gripping our country.

What happened in the months to come was nothing short of inspiring. As we all adjusted to unique, unfamiliar challenges, our employees persevered time and time again. Almost overnight, we saw herculean efforts from our customer service, IT, facilities, safety, and operations groups to implement new safety measures and work arrangements for employees. We saw departments move forward with service and technology projects across our organization without missing a beat. We saw our employees adapt to new tools and embrace virtual collaboration. We saw our incredible colleagues in the field continue to maintain and improve our infrastructure across 10 states. Day in and day out, we saw our employees putting our customers first.

It may have been a difficult year, but when we take a step back and see all that we’ve accomplished together, we’re immeasurably proud and grateful. In the face of enormous challenges, our teams have come together in support of a combined mission to safely deliver Earth’s most essential resources. We are all excited to continue our journey in the months and years ahead.

To all members of the Essential family, thank you for everything you’ve done and everything you continue to do to support our customers, communities, and each other.

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Aqua Celebrates Black History Month: Recognizing Black Scientists and Leaders Who Made a Splash

 

To honor Black History Month, we’d like to acknowledge a few of the many influential Black scientists, inventors, and leaders who have made a positive impact in the water or wastewater industry.

Benjamin Montgomery (1819-1877) – Inventor and Public Official

Benjamin Montgomery was born enslaved in Loudon County, Virginia. He worked as a mechanic and eventually as the business manager of his owner’s plantation. Accomplished and well-favored, he obtained a small library and learned to survey land. He used his skills to plan the construction and maintenance of local levees for flood protection, and assisted in the construction of large buildings on the plantation. In the late 1850s, Montgomery invented a steamboat propeller intended for shallow waters; the blades entered the water at an angle, making them much more efficient in shallow water. After the end of the Civil War, now a free man, he founded an African American community that lasted for about a decade before becoming the first black public official in Mississippi as a justice of the peace. Montgomery’s inventions, including the propeller, were displayed at the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia, just a year before his death. Montgomery’s inventions were unearthed in the early 20th century, and he was finally given more widespread recognition for his ingenuity.

Learn More: https://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1619&context=law_facpub  

Alice Augusta Ball (1892-1916) – Chemist, Researcher, and Instructor

Chemist Alice Augusta Ball is known for developing a successful treatment for Hansen’s Disease, also known as leprosy, a bacterial infection that can result in severe nerve damage. In 1915, Ball became the first woman to graduate from the College of Hawaii, and was the first African American researcher and instructor in the College of Hawaii’s Chemistry Department. At that time, chaulmoogra oil was the best known treatment for leprosy, but the oil lost efficacy when given as a topical or oral treatment. Ball isolated the compounds from the oil and chemically modified them to be water-soluble, so they could be easily absorbed by the human body. Ball’s injectable compound became the preferred treatment for leprosy until antimicrobial treatments were developed in the 1940s. 

Learn More: https://www.biography.com/scientist/alice-ball

Lonnie Johnson – Inventor, Aerospace Engineer, and Researcher

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering, Johnson worked for the U.S. Air Force before joining NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1979. From 1979-1991, Johnson worked on a variety of projects, such as developing the nuclear power source for the Galileo mission to Jupiter. An established inventor, Johnson created the Super Soaker toy in 1990 and tweaked the design in 1996 to launch toy projectiles, thus also inventing the Nerf gun. Johnson currently has two technology-development companies, Excellatron Solid State, which focuses on developing and producing solid state batteries, and Johnson Electro-Mechanical Systems (JEMS), which developed the Johnson Thermo-Electrochemical Converter System (JTEC). The JTEC system converts thermal energy into electrical energy by pushing hydrogen ions through two membranes.

Learn More: https://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/31/science/engineer-at-play-lonnie-johnson-rocket-science-served-up-soggy.html?pagewanted=all

Catherine Flowers – Founder & CEO of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise

Catherine Coleman Flowers is an environmental activist and health researcher who shines a light on failing water and waste sanitation infrastructure in rural areas, and how they contribute to health and socioeconomic disparities. As founder and CEO of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE)—an organization working to fight poverty and provide water and sanitation equity—Flowers has worked tirelessly to address the persistent issue of substandard sewage systems in her home of Lowndes County, Alabama, that have disproportionately affected African Americans in the area. In 2020, she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow as an Environmental Health Advocate.

Learn More: https://www.macfound.org/fellows/class-of-2020/catherine-coleman-flowers

 

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