Get To Know Aqua: Customer Billing Refund Analyst, Ann Russo


Back Row left to right: Rachel Lisacchi, Shawn McArdle, Lori Bristow, Lonnie Lott and Danny Albano
Front Row left to right: Coach Ann, Ben Coreano, Patrick Gilronin and Kevin Koethe


When Ann Russo steps onto the court, there’s no place for negativity. To her, and to her volleyball team, sportsmanship is about encouragement. Throughout her career as a Special Olympics coach one thing has always been constant: mistakes aren’t moments for criticism; they’re opportunities to learn.


Russo, who works at Aqua’s Bryn Mawr office as a customer billing refund analyst, has been involved with the Special Olympics for the past 30 years, starting out as a swim instructor while attending Marple Newtown Senior High School outside of Philadelphia. She moved onto volleyball 15 years ago. Since then, the time she’s spent helping people with special needs taught her as much about herself as it did those she assists.


“I’ve always had an innate coach in me, an innate teacher,” Russo said. “The fostering of athletes is not only in sports, it’s in self-esteem. It’s about having people come out of their shells and learn about themselves.”


The Special Olympics have an oath: Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. This mantra not only shaped Russo’s approach to coaching, it’s something she takes with her through life.


Her team, the Fighting Hawks, has nearly a dozen players spanning between ages 18 and 47. From Nov. 7 to 9, the team competed in the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival tournament at Villanova University. The tournament features teams from across the state competing in seven divisions. The Hawks played against three other teams in their division throughout the festival.


Russo, who has been to the event 14 out of her 15 years as coach,  always makes sure her team is both mentally and physically prepared so no one gets overwhelmed. She said it’s important that her relationship with the athletes, both men and women, is defined early on. She’s responsible not only for their coaching but also their well-being. This parental role has permeated throughout her career as a coach. In the past, team members have jokingly called her “mom.”


“They know what Coach Ann says, goes,” Russo said. “You find different ways to communicate. You have to pull within yourself and find the best way to communicate what you’re thinking. It becomes a challenge.”




Russo has three rules: be focused and have fun; get your hands up and be ready; and use your dancing feet. Her playful attitude is what keeps her team relaxed and loose, she said. For example, before every game, the Fighting Hawks wiggle — as in, shake their whole body — for a final warm up. It’s important to remind her athletes that it’s just a game. Forget the nerves, she said, and just wiggle.

Russo’s philosophy on coaching is supported by her experiences in strengthening athletes. Since starting as a volleyball coach, she’s seen players gain confidence in themselves. They become more aware and more willing. They break out of their shells.

“You see them make strides and improve themselves as a person,” she said. “And that’s what’s more rewarding to them.”


Russo said the Fighting Hawks finished fourth in their division this year, losing to the first place team during a round robin match on the tournament’s final day. While it was tough a loss, Russo made sure her players focused on the experience rather than the defeat.

 “It’s about sportsmanship. It’s about respect for others and letting them understand it’s OK to make a mistake,” she said. “I tell them, you may have lost, but do you also understand how well you did?”

The theme at this year's Special Olympics Fall Festival at Villanova University was "Heroes Forever."


Steve Condodina and Danielle Sweeny pose with a Stormtrooper at this year's event. Condodina and Sweeny are part of the Fighting Hawks Skills group, which means they specialize in one aspect or skill. 

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Why Water Mains Break

One of the biggest concerns for water utilities during extremely hot or cold weather is water main breaks. Water mains are expected to last a long time – as long as 100 years in many cases. But with many miles of pipe buried underground, it’s reasonable to expect a particular section of pipe will fail or break at some point. The challenge for water utilities is to work proactively to minimize the number of breaks and to respond effectively when a main does break.

While the oldest water mains were made of wood, by the late 1800s, a variety of iron pipe was being used to construct water distribution systems. Common iron varieties included cast and galvanized in the early part of the 20th Century, with galvanized used primarily for smaller diameter pipe. Cast iron pipe was used until the late 1950s when stronger, more flexible ductile iron pipe became common. Plastic pipe, including Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) became common in the 1970s. The primary difference between these two plastic pipes is that PVC is stiffer than HDPE, which is more flexible. Even though pipe is expected to last for decades, that doesn’t mean it won’t break at some point. While it is impossible to predict specific pipe breaks, we know that environmental conditions are a major factor in water main breaks.

In the northern and northeast areas of the country where winters are more extreme, cold soils and cold water combine to add stress to pipes, which can—and often do—result in breaks. Iron, like all metals, contracts as temperatures drop. This problem is more common when the source water is surface water (rivers and lakes). These waters are significantly affected by air temperature and can drop to near freezing in the winter. A temperature difference of just 10 degrees in water or air temperatures can cause pipes to contract or expand. Additional stress inside and outside the pipe occurs as temperatures near the freezing point, making the pipe vulnerable to breakage. Water temperature changes more slowly than air temperature changes so the impact of cold water on pipes can cause breakage to take place as many as a couple days after temperatures freeze. Water systems with groundwater sources (wells) have more stable water temperatures because the water is not affected by air temperatures, and therefore, not as significantly impacted. 

Just as pipes are adversely affected by cold weather conditions, they are also affected by severe heat. In some groundwater systems in the southern and southwestern states, the soils are like sponges and hold lots of water. However, during extended periods of hot temperature when high demands for water increases water withdrawal from the aquifers, the soil becomes very dry. In these conditions, the soil contracts and subsides, pulling away from the pipe and diminishing support for the water main. The absence of support for the main can cause it to break. This particular problem led the City of Houston, Texas to begin to convert its groundwater supply to surface water.

Although older mains are generally more susceptible to breaks, breaks can occur on newer mains. This is most likely the result of improper installation or a manufacturing issue with that particular section of pipe. By examining trends in water main breaks over time, a utility is better able to identify categories of pipe that are more prone to breaks, and thus proactively target that pipe for replacement. Aqua employs such tactics in determining which mains to replace. By the end of 2013, Aqua expects to have spent $170 million of its $325 million capital improvement program on water main replacement and associated work.

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Proper Hydration for Fitness

A new year and a healthy new you. That’s always the goal, right? This year, you’ll reach it. Sometimes it just takes a little advice from the experts to get you on track.


Luckily, Aqua had the chance to get some health and hydration tips from fitness expert Juliet Burgh, Vice President and Nutrition Director at Unite Fitness. Follow her hydration tips, and you’ll tackle your New Year’s resolution in no time!




1. Why is it important to stay hydrated while working out?


Hydration helps to support your entire system while working out. It will keep your muscles from cramping and will cool your body down, allowing you to work longer and harder.



2. How much and how often should the average person drink water?


The average person should make sure they are drinking at least half their body weight in ounces of water a day and an extra 16 ounces per hour of exercise.  



3. Is drinking water better than drinking a sports drink? Why or why not?


Yes, 100 percent. Those sugary drinks will make your blood sugar crash and will not fully hydrate you. They’ll actually make you thirstier at times. Sports drinks do have their place as a way to replenish salt, sugar and potassium ratios, but this is only for someone who is training for endurance (over 90 minutes at a time).



4. What effect does proper hydration have on recovery after working out?


It helps your body flush out toxins, which can build up in your body. It helps your muscles to recover and heal, as well as your organs to function properly.



5. Can proper hydration before working out help give you a boost at the gym?


Yes. You will feel more energized and limber if your body is properly hydrated. Muscles will not feel as stiff, which will allow you to have a better workout.


There you have it from the pros. Better hydration = better workouts, and a better you! Make water a part of the plan when you put your 2015 New Year’s resolution into action and make this year the year you stick to it! You can start by filling up a bottle and hitting the gym.  


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