Employee Spotlight - Mark Aurich

Aqua has many talented and hardworking employees who come in and out of the office each day, but who would have thought there was a true blue cowboy in our midst? Forty-five year-old, Mark Aurich has been a part of the Aqua team for 13 years and many are unaware of his interesting life outside of the workplace. Known by some as “Michigan Slim,” Aurich has been moonlighting as a wastewater treatment plant supervisor in Fort Wayne, Indiana during the workweek, but in his spare time is a part of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) and Paradise Pass. It’s here where he along with family and the friends he has made over the years as a registered member enjoy a day of authentic old western inspired camaraderie. Paradise Pass is home to an Old Western venue that is a dreamland for anybody with fond childhood memories of playing “Cowboys and Indians.” Paradise Pass hosts Cowboy Action Shooting events for men and women of every age, background and skill level with different stages and thrill inducing competitions. At these events, participants recreate the cowboy time period through dress and use of single action pistols, shotguns and rifles.  Aurich has been attending events with Paradise Pass since 2003 and has gotten his wife Tracey and children Joseph (18) and Emily (13) involved in the fun. This year, Aurich was proud to include daughter Emily in the most recent Paradise Pass named the Cowboy Action Shoot in which she dressed as Kaya, an American Girl doll, alongside her father. Folks were amazed at how fast she picked it up. On his daughter’s performance, Aurich laughs, “She beat her dad on four out of the five stages we shot that first day, then beat me at long range lever rifle and long range pistol just to rub it in!” At the Cowboy Action Shoot, over 130 participants came from great distances to participate in costume and skill competitions and enjoy a day living in ‘The Old West’. Awards and cool prizes are up for grabs at the end of the day, including a gun holder, a custom set of spurs and awards for best costume. “I had fun before my family started shooting with me but I could never have imagined the great times we have together doing this...I came to watch, and then shoot but I stayed for the people,” Aurich says about his membership in Paradise Pass. The members of Paradise Pass have become an extended family for one another and look forward to having a good time and seeing friends at each event. Taking part in Cowboy Action Shooting gives Mark the opportunity to take a break from the constant hustle and bustle to enjoy a unique and exciting experience.  Aurich is an exemplary employee with Aqua and just as outstanding in the Wild West, where he lives out his passion and spends time alongside his family. For over a decade he has strived to be a standout employee and father.  Mark and his family also participate in hunting, fishing and spend quality time in their cabin located in northern Michigan. Mark is always hoping to welcome more people to join him and his family, including other Aqua employees to join Paradise Pass. If you ever make your way to Paradise Pass, just ask for “Slim.”

 

For more information:

Experience Michiana: Paradise Pass

Paradise Pass Regulators

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Solving Long-Term Water Challenges

In today’s society, water is available in seemingly endless abundance. Access to clean water for everything from personal hygiene to recreational use seems to know no bounds. Water is such a commonplace resource that we even throw it away without much thought. 

Professionals working in various sectors of the water industry, however, are privy to the effort, planning and resources needed to deliver clean, safe water to people every day. A major concern is the nation’s crumbling water infrastructure system. With some systems more than a century old, many municipalities are facing challenges regarding how to execute rehabilitation or replacement projects to keep systems functioning, and doing so affordably. 

The issue of America’s aging water systems is widely recognized throughout the water industry, from representatives in rural municipalities to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Last spring, the EPA released its projections from a survey, showing that approximately $384 billion of infrastructure improvements are needed through the year 2030 for systems to continue providing safe drinking water to 297 million Americans.

To address this problem, private companies and municipalities are working with a public-private partnership model, under which municipalities can identify longstanding concerns with their systems and prioritize projects that need immediate work. Municipalities are finding that private utilities have the needed capital resources required to update infrastructure and are in the financial position to invest resources in improvements to update aging systems. According to a study by Public Works Financing, private providers save municipalities an average of 17% in costs through operational efficiencies under a public-private partnership.

Each day, almost 73 million Americans receive water service from a private or municipal utility operating through a public-private partnership. Private utilities often serve customers who do not have many other options, such as those living in rural areas.

There also are public health benefits attached to privatization. According to EPA records, in the past five years there were 5,808 public health related Safe Drinking Water Act violations. These violations can include exceeding maximum containment levels for regulated substances or the failure to disinfect water properly. Only nine of these violations took place at facilities operated by investor-owned utility companies. 

Still, it can be difficult to dispel misconceptions about rate increases. Rates are designed to give private utilities the opportunity to recover reasonable costs for service, and a reasonable rate of return on money they have spent on the infrastructure. State utility commissions not only establish utility rates, but also closely review a utility’s rate request to ensure money is spent prudently. This means that utilities can only recover costs for projects that are necessary to serve customers and comply with state and federal laws. 

Private, publicly traded water companies spend money to make needed improvements to water and sewer systems. Only then do they ask the state utility commission for permission to recover their costs through customer rates over a period of time.  

 

For More Information:

EPA Water's Laws and Regulations Page

EPA Water's Infrastructure Information

Water & Wastes Digest's From Pipe to Faucet

 

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Aqua's Youngest Customer Calls For Help

When four-year-old Marcus in Palmyra, Virginia, accidentally flushed a coin down the toilet, he knew exactly who could help. Since Aqua runs the wastewater plant that serves his neighborhood, Marcus dictated a letter to his Mom asking us to please find the coin — he thinks it was a dime — and send it back to him. Marcus described the money for us (small and silver) and told us that if we happened to find two coins, we could give the second one to his friend, whose money had also gone missing.

 

While this dilemma was a little outside our scope of work, Aqua Virginia President Shannon Becker understands that we don’t just serve houses, we serve families, and Marcus was counting on us to fix a problem. Without getting into the complexities of sewer treatment systems, Shannon decided the original coins weren’t just hard to find, but also likely no longer desirable! That’s why Shannon dropped by to visit Marcus and his family on Monday, Oct. 14 to personally deliver two silver dollars — one for Marcus and one for his friend.

 Marcus and his family appreciated the visit, but Shannon might have enjoyed it most. “I think Marcus was amazed that his dime somehow turned into a silver dollar, although I made it pretty clear that this is not how to make your money grow,” said Shannon. “Aqua delivers a critical service that families depend on, and if they have a problem that we can help solve, they can depend on us to try to fix it.”

 

Marcus knows he can take that promise to the bank.

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Challenge Accepted: Aqua's Tough Mudders

Billed as “Ironman meets Burning Man,” Tough Mudder challenges, which are held throughout the world, are not just mud races. Rather, they are 10- to 12-mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces “to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie.” 

The desire to challenge oneself personally — on so many levels — is exactly what drew Aqua employees to the Tough Mudder challenge. Chris Luning, senior vice president and general counsel  for Aqua America, was one of the first at Aqua to take on the Tough Mudder. 

After completing his first challenge two years ago, he encouraged two colleagues at Aqua to sign up for a Tough Mudder. His persistence became the catalyst in turning Tom Rafferty, director of corporate development at AquaCapital Ventures , into a fellow Tough Mudder.

Luning’s example also paved the way for Fred Martino, senior associate of investor relations at Aqua America, to become a Tough Mudder. “Luning convinced me basically to get involved in mud runs and trail running and these military-style obstacle courses,” Martino said. 

While Luning, Rafferty and Martino were gearing up for Tough Mudder, they didn’t realize another Aqua employee was also training for the event. It wasn’t until just a few days before that they found out, by chance, that Joseph McBride, director of IT communications and call center technology for Aqua America, was a fellow Mudder.

All their training helped prepare the Aqua Mudders for the obstacles they faced the day of the challenge. Some actually emerged as favorites. For instance, the “Walk the Plank” obstacle, which involves jumping off a plank into a freezing-cold pond, was one of Luning’s favorites.

While making it through these obstacles was remarkable, McBride said the most amazing part of the whole event was the camaraderie. “Everybody checked on each other, even people you didn’t know,” he said. 

After a weekend spent on a Tough Mudder, these four Aqua employees had a lot to discuss back at the office on Monday morning. Co-workers also noticed the buzz surrounding the event.

Not only did colleagues look at the men in a new light, the men began to look at each other differently. Although Luning, Rafferty and Martino were friends before the challenge, they became closer afterwards.

 

Learn more about Tough Mudders

What is Tough Mudder?

Tough Mudders helps raise money for Wounded Warrior Project

 

 

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Sunny Outlook

It’s another sunny workday in southeastern Pennsylvania. Dave Marozzi logs on to the web-based monitoring system that tracks the performance of the new 1-megawatt photovoltaic power system at Aqua’s Ingram’s Mill Water Treatment Plant. Not a cloud is in the sky as Marozzi, superintendent of the Pickering and Ingram’s Mill plants, observes the graph that tracks the output of the solar field. As expected, the solar field started producing energy soon after sunrise. 

When performance peaks sometime between 1:30 and 2 p.m., the 3.8-acre solar field will be really humming, generating enough electricity to power the plant essentially for free.

“At peak performance, Ingram’s Mill consumes, on average, about 700 kilowatts of electricity,” Marozzi explains. “So for four to five hours a day, we are basically getting free power and selling the excess back to PECO Energy.”

The Ingram’s Mill solar field went into service in December 2009. “Since it came up to full power, it has been exceeding our expectations,” says Karl Kyriss, executive vice  president of Aqua America.

“The solar energy supplements our power demand at Ingram’s Mill, providing approximately 30 percent of the power required to operate the plant. That offsets $115,000 of expense at the anticipated yearly cost of electricity.”

Overall, the project made good economic sense. “The price of solar panels has come down, and the availability of grants and tax incentives made it a viable economic alternative to help us supplement our energy demand and to help us manage rising energy costs as we go forward,” Kyriss says.

In addition, the investment in solar energy pays annual “dividends” in the form of solar renewable energy credits (SRECs).

In 2011, utilities’ energy portfolios must contain at least 3.5 percent renewable energy. Those that do not meet their individual solar goals must make payments into a renewable energy fund at a rate of 200 percent of the market value of the SRECs.

On the plus side, owners of a facility such as the solar field at Ingram’s Mill receive one SREC for each 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity produced. These credits can be sold or traded to other companies that have not met their required goals through online trading sites such as the Flett Exchange.

For example, the solar field at Ingram’s Mill is anticipated to produce 1,280 SRECs in its first year of operation. At the current ‘spot’ market value of $325 per SREC, its total SREC value for the year is projected to be $416,000. 

 

For More Information:

Aqua Sustainability Report

 

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