Every Day is Earth Day at Aqua!

Aqua employees participate in stream clean up efforts throughout our eight states.

 By Aqua Vice President and Chief Environmental Officer Chris Crockett

It’s always a good time to consider how we can be better stewards of our environment. At Aqua, we think about this question every day as we strive to carry out our mission of protecting and providing Earth’s most essential resource. With Earth Day tomorrow, Saturday, April 22, we hope this question is on everyone’s minds, at Aqua and beyond.


As the vice president and chief environmental officer, I am routinely asked how Aqua is helping the planet and what we could be doing better. Let me take a moment to explain some specific things we’re doing and how they’ve made a difference in the environment. I’ll also explain our efforts to develop a sustainability plan for Aqua to help guide and improve our environmental impacts moving forward.

Believe it or not, there are more than 100 activities Aqua does company-wide to help protect the planet, and we do some of them every day.

Reducing Lost Water

Since only 2.5 percent of the world’s water is fresh water, and only about a third of that, or less than one percent, is accessible, it’s our most significant responsibility as a water utility to manage our water resources carefully. One key daily activity that’s fundamental to our company’s sustainability is our ability to reduce water loss. We’re experts at replacing pipes, changing meters and re-using water in various ways. 

Keeping our Streams and Rivers Clean

Another aspect of our daily work is treating wastewater. Our nearly 175 wastewater plants return 26 million gallons of wastewater per day back into our streams and rivers cleaner than it came out. This water is not only critical to water supplies, but it’s also critical to the multitude of fish and flora that need it to survive. 

Aqua employees at the Media Wastewater Plant in PA.

Protecting our Water Supplies for Future Generations

Protecting the aquifers, streams and rivers that supply our water is also a critical daily function. In Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, teams work to manage lakes and reservoirs and protect the streams that feed them to keep their quantity and quality sustainable. This involves preserving lands, monitoring our streams, planting trees, educating communities and local leaders, partnering with environmental or watershed groups, conducting stream cleanups, or providing input on local development and local ordinances. Aqua Illinois recently won the American Water Works Association (AWWA) source water protection award for their efforts.  

Reducing Waste From Our Business

Treating water also creates waste from the things we take out of the water and wastewater to clean it. At our water plants, we use belt filter presses to drain water from the sludge from treatment to reduce the amount we need to send to landfills. We have also explored and use efforts to beneficially reuse the waste from wastewater treatment to put nutrients on farm fields. In some areas, we use spray irrigation to apply treated wastewater to fields to recharge the groundwater and avoid impacts on local streams.

Using Energy Wisely

Aqua uses many innovative approaches to reduce our energy use. These activities include LED lighting, pump-curve calibrations, variable-flow (VFD) pumps, peak-demand response, air blower and diffuser improvements and solar panels. We also manage energy through our fleet. We measure idling times to reduce gas waste and air emissions and look for efficiency improvements when we buy new cars and trucks. 

   

Aqua solar fields benefit the environment across some of our eight states. One of which is at our Pickering Water Treatment Plant in PA, which is 6.5 acres and reduces our usage by 2.2 million kWh annually. This is the equivalent of avoiding 51,450 gallons of gasoline per year or the equivalent emissions as 380 passenger cars.

Sustainability Planning

Aqua is embarking on a multi-year effort to develop a sustainability plan. This effort involves a couple of steps, starting with benchmarking Aqua’s sustainability metrics against other utilities and developing a sustainability activity inventory. This will take most of 2017 to complete as we look at more than 34 different standard metrics from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). 

In 2018, we’ll begin to understand which sustainability metrics are important to our employees and our customers to help determine which areas will become our core focus. Next, we’ll develop a governance structure to help drive the achievement and measurement of our sustainability effort. Finally, in 2019, we’ll develop a plan that sets the goals, objectives, and short- and long-term actions we need to take to improve our sustainability as a company. We know Aqua does many things that are sustainable, but we can and need to do better if we want to catch up to our peers in the industry.

We’ll be soliciting ideas and feedback in the future, so please keep an eye out for ways you can share your thoughts.

Last, I want to thank everyone at Aqua for protecting and providing Earth’s most essential resource every day! There is no greater responsibility to our communities, our families and our planet!

Did you know? Other ways Aqua is making a difference:

  • Some of Aqua’s reservoirs have preserved land around them. This land is home to threatened and endangered species. By preserving land to protect our water supplies, we are also helping to protect and re-establish threatened and endangered species
  • Aqua has been participating in TreeVitalize in Pennsylvania since 2005. In total, Aqua has planted more than 43,658 trees for 277 projects, equal to 302 acres of trees. What does this mean for the environment? Well, each tree sequesters 26 to 48 pounds of carbon per year depending on size. Each acre of trees counters about 26,000 miles of driving roughly, so in total, these trees counter about 7.8 million miles of driving per year. Aqua’s fleet drives about 17.4 million miles per year, so these trees counter roughly 45 percent of Aqua’s carbon footprint from driving.
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Aqua Indiana Employee Spotlight: Yan Ma

 

Throughout 2017, Aqua will be highlighting each of our eight states for a month at a time. In March we put a spotlight on Aqua Illinois, and now, for the month of April, our focus is on sharing all about Aqua Indiana. One way we’re sharing our story, is by sharing our employees’ stories.

As a company, we know it’s our employees who make us great! And throughout these state spotlights, we are making an effort to point out some among the many who have interesting and impressive stories to share, both professionally and personally. In Indiana, one such employee is Financial Accountant Yan Ma.

Yan, a Chinese native who moved to the United States 20 years ago, will celebrate her seventh anniversary with Aqua this August. But that’s not all Yan will be celebrating this year! 2017 will mark the year that Yan became a U.S. citizen. Yan is excited about this milestone in her life. This is her story:

 

What made you want to move to the United States, from China, 20 years ago?

When I was in high school in China, I had a dream to come to America and get my education in the States. This is a land of freedom and opportunity. I knew that if I moved here, worked hard and got a degree, that I could have a better life.

In early 1980s, China opened its door to the Western World. A lot of younger generations had similar dreams of coming to America, and we studied English to carry those out. I had my mind made up that I wanted to give it a shot. I had an uncle who came to the states in the 1960s, so I knew I’d have some family so I wouldn’t feel too lonely in America.

How did you go about making this dream a reality?

I continuously worked on my dream; I self-motivated. I kept working on my English, went to college and graduated with a degree in economics, and got a job in Beijing. Eventually, I left my job and focused on intensive English language training for a year.

During that time, my husband Mark and I worked part-time as translators for Beijing Warner Gear Company, which had a joint venture with Borg-Warner, on a project called the China Action Plan. Through that project, we met some managers and engineers who had graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. My husband and I decided to apply to that school, and were accepted with scholarships. It is highly competitive for someone from China to be granted a visa from the US Embassy to attend school in the states. We were lucky!

Once at Ball State, I started my schooling over in an undergraduate program and earned my Master’s Degree in Accounting, and graduated with honors. My husband has degrees in environmental geology and computer science.

Has your experience in the U.S. been equal to the dream you had?

It’s living up to the dream. America is a melting pot, where people come from all over the world; we have been treated well in America. We have decent jobs; Mark works in programming for Indiana University’s medical school. We have three-year-old twins, Emma and Baron. We love to travel and being a U.S. citizen means you have the passport and ability to travel to most countries without limitations.

Is that one of the reasons you decided to become a U.S. citizen?

It’s one of the reasons, yes. We’ve been here 20 years. Our children were born here and will be raised here. We feel more at home here, and more comfortable working and living here.

What was the process like becoming a U.S. citizen?

It was a long process, so we started off completing one step at a time. I was eligible to apply to be a citizen in 2013. China doesn’t allow you to have dual citizenship, so I knew once this was complete, I’d no longer be a Chinese citizen, which is a little hard. Now when I want to visit family, I must get a Visa to China. We mentally prepared ourselves for that piece of this while going through the process.

I found out recently that I passed the final process of this, the interview. Now I just have to wait to be told when I can attend the ceremony, in the courtroom, to document and make my journey official. That should take place in the next month or two.

Do you plan to celebrate?

Absolutely! My husband is also getting his citizenship, so we will celebrate together.

What does completing this process, and being named a U.S. citizen mean to you?

I am getting excited; it will be a great milestone in my life. Becoming a citizen means other significant changes in my life, such as being eligible to vote, and not having to worry about being deported.

While I am proud to be named a U.S. citizen, I will continue to celebrate the bridge I’ve established that connects my Eastern and Western cultures through the art of Chinese folk dancing and singing. Check out Yan’s Aqua blog on her experiences performing in Chinese festivals.

 

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5 Water Hacks You Won’t Believe

Plenty of tasks are made possible through water: travelling, cooking, cleaning, survivingand everything in between. However, sometimes a burst of pure genius strikes and we discover new, innovative ways to utilize Earth’s most precious resource. Below you will find five out-of-the-box, water-based solutions to everyday problems.

 

Disclaimer: Though these uses for water are fascinating and mesmerizing, we have not tested them ourselves, and therefore, we are not encouraging you to try them. Instead, we only want to showcase the unique and unconventional ways in which people have utilized water to address ordinary challenges.

 

Keep Reusable Water Bottles Cool

Few things are more infuriating than attempting to force ice cubes into a water bottle. Many bottles are just too narrow, and nobody wants to drink lukewarm water. So, is there a solution to this dilemma? Apart from crushing the ice cubes or buying a reusable bottle with a bigger opening, there may be a surefire smart solution for those water bottle woes. Just fill the bottle a quarter of the way full, rest it on its side in the freezer overnight and fill the remainder of the bottle up with water in the morning. Ahhhh, refreshingly cool hydration for hours!

 

Car Dented? No Problem!

Stressed out over the fender bender that's left a dent in your rear bumper? One innovative fixer-upper discovered a way to remove dents with little more than boiling water and plunger. It seems this method would only work for newer models of cars with plastic bumpers, as it is quite unlikely that steel cold be shaped by a toiler plunger, but it's still a fascinating concept.

 

Speed Dry a Manicure

Waiting around for a manicure to dry is both a frustrating and boring use of time. What if you get an itch on your nose or desperately need to go to the bathroom? Any sudden movements are a potential threat to newly polished nails. Interestingly, some people have turned to water—really, really cold water—to dry manicures quickly. Apparently, placing your fresh manicure into a bowl of ice cold water for three minutes is one way to dry the polish all the way through.

 

DIY Storm Lanterns

When the power goes out, smartphone flashlights tend to come on. However, the light from a cellphone only beams upward and provides minimal lighting at best. Shining a phone's flashlight beam through a clear container full of water makes for much more efficient storm lighting since the light beam refracts through the water molecules and disperses.

 

(Safely!) Start a Fire

Did you know it's possible to start a fire with a water bottle and a piece of paper? They may not teach this in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, but some have figured out how to ignite a fire using the rays of the sun and a bottle of water. While it certainly isn't as simple as using a lighter, this strategy for starting a campfire is definitely impressive. (But be careful, OK?)

 

New, creative and innovative ways to solve problems with water come to light every single day. What are some of the coolest things you or someone you know has done with water?

 

 

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DIY Cleaning Products: Creating a Cleaner Spring

Spring cleaning season is here! It’s time for opening windows, reorganizing clutter and freshening up our homes.

Surprisingly, many of the products we use to clean our living spaces do just the opposite: They make our homes a less fresh place to live. Some materials contained in household cleaners are among the top environmental dangers threatening our health, and manufacturers often use harsh or toxic chemicals in their products, putting consumers at risk.

Here’s the good news, though: You can create your own cleaning products using natural ingredients—like water—from home. These supplies can disinfect and eliminate messes as needed, and they’re better for your health and safety. Plus, these simple recipes also help you save money!

 

What You’ll Need

Many ingredients used in DIY cleaning products are probably in your cupboards already. Common household cleaning agents include:

·      White vinegar

·      Baking soda

·      Castile soap

·      Essential oils

·      Lemons

·      Olive oil

·      Natural dish soap

·      Citric acid

·      Hydrogen peroxide

 

What to Do

There are dozens of creative options to make the cleaning solution that’s right for you, but here are three of our favorites.

 

Drain Cleaner: Some commercial drain cleaners can damage your pipes and cause chemical burns. To avoid these products, pour equal parts of baking soda and white vinegar into your drain. Allow time for these gentle ingredients to break down clogs, and then flush with boiling water.

 

Mold and Mildew Remover: While your instinct may be to use harsh cleaners to combat unhealthy mold and mildew, this simple mixture will do the trick. In a 24-ounce spray bottle, mix two cups of water and two teaspoons of tea-tree oil. Generously spray the affected area and let sit for 24 hours. Next, mix the solution into 1/4 cup of baking soda until a paste forms. Scrub the area with the paste and rinse.

 

Water Bottle Fizzies: Reusable water bottles are great for the environment, but their tall physique can make them difficult to clean. In a small bowl, mix one cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup of citric acid and 1/4 cup of salt. Next, gradually mix in one teaspoon of natural dish soap and 1/2 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide. Scoop into equal pieces on parchment paper and let dry overnight.

When you’re ready to clean, simply drop a tablet in your water bottle, give it a shake, and rinse!

 

Tips and Tricks

Be careful what you mix. The pH balance of some ingredients can cancel the effects of others, making your mixture ineffective. If you’re recycling old product containers, be certain to clean out bottles and spray nozzles thoroughly to prevent unwanted chemical reactions.

Label your creations and keep them out of reach of children and pets. This is a good precaution with all cleaning products. Unlabeled bottles can also lead you to make frustrating mistakes like spraying furniture polish on your windows.

Don’t make more than what you need. The average shelf life of natural cleaning products is one month or less. Store ingredients separately and mix as needed for a fresher clean.

 

Which DIY cleaner are you eager to try? Have any cleaning recipes of your own? Tell us in a Facebook comment or on Twitter!

 

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Aqua Illinois Focuses on Carrying Out Our Mission

World Water Day was one week ago today! This annual event, which focuses attention on the importance of freshwater and advocates for the sustainable management of fresh water resources, falls on March 22 every year. It is Aqua’s mission to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource: water. In recognition of World Water Day, we are spotlighting the efforts being put forth by one of Aqua’s eight state operations. Aqua Illinois Regional Environmental Compliance Manager Kevin Culver is passionate about Aqua Illinois’ efforts to execute our mission; this is his story.

 

Water quality and water sustainability are incredibly important to the team at Aqua Illinois. As the regional environmental compliance manager, I am responsible for maintaining a high standard of water quality, carrying out our source water protection plan, and overseeing our company’s environmental efforts to improve the water sources close to home. 

 

At Aqua, we believe that the cleaner the source water, the better the drinking water quality for our customers. At most of our facilities, we do not control the water sources or land adjacent to them, so we must rely on our customers and partners to assist us with keeping our water as clean as possible. To better ensure success in this area, Aqua Illinois organizes and participates in various outreach and education efforts. Some of these are specifically aimed at local youth, because we believe that children can get involved and bring home a lasting message that what they do in their back yard will impact their water or someone else’s water downstream.

Aqua Illinois participates in various local educational opportunities such as the Kankakee Valley Park District Outdoor Show and The Pause for Patriotism community event.

Aqua Illinois participates in various local educational opportunities such as the Kankakee Valley Park District Outdoor Show and the Pause for Patriotism community event. 

 

Specifically, Aqua Illinois focuses a lot of attention on maintaining and enhancing the water quality of the Kankakee River. The Kankakee River is our water source for nearly 80,000 customers. Aqua Illinois works to raise awareness and educate the local community, lawmakers and the farming community, about the importance of the Kankakee River, not only as a water source, but as a natural resource to the entire area. Among the valuable information we have shared with the community about the river is the impact that nutrient runoff has on drinking water quality. One example of how our education efforts have worked is that farmers in our local areas are now planting cover crops and significantly reducing nutrient runoff.

Aqua Illinois assists with clean-up efforts at local rivers and lakes.

 Aqua Illinois assists with clean-up efforts at local rivers and lakes. 

 

To expand our education efforts and reach a larger audience, Aqua Illinois participates in various watershed conferences, including the recent Kankakee River Watershed Conference, which took place Feb. 10 at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. These types of events give us great exposure and allow us to send our operators, engineers and area managers to connect with attendees and share their knowledge with larger groups of people. Aqua is serious about its commitment to protect and provide Earth’s most essential resource, and the company as a whole takes pride in all of its efforts to achieve this commitment.

With the assistance of the teachers at Kankakee Trinity Academy, Kevin Culver provides a hands-on lesson on how to collect macro-invertebrates for the students.

With the assistance of the teachers at Kankakee Trinity Academy, Kevin Culver provides a hands-on lesson on how to collect macro-invertebrates for the students. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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