Aqua Gives Back with United Way

Volunteering is a key part of what makes Aqua employees who we are.

Recently, to get a head start on the season of giving, we partnered with United Way to embark on a company-wide charitable giving campaign.

United Way is an organization dedicated to advocating for the “health, education and financial stability of every person in every community.” Some Aqua employees have been involved with the United Way in the past, and that, partnered with their mission, made for the perfect organization for us to come together to create a campaign that would encourage employee teamwork and simultaneously help so many members of the communities across all eight of our states. 

“Aqua has had a long partnership with United Way for more than 30 years,” said Karen Carlson, our director of community affairs & corporate giving, who helped to execute the campaign. “Our CEO Chris Franklin wanted to have a centralized, company-wide employee campaign. He chaired the campaign this year and our CFO Dave Smeltzer will chair it next year.” 

This was our first time running a company-wide charitable initiative, and we were thrilled to see that our employees were eager to participate. Aqua employees across all eight states were split into two teams, the Aqua Avengers and the Water Warriors, and competed for the highest percentage of participation in giving to United Way. The winning team received an additional personal day off for 2018.

All in all, we raised $147,000 for United Way with the help of our outstanding employees. We’re so grateful for the generosity, time and effort that they put into making the campaign such a success. 

“It was a great team effort, and it provided an opportunity to better get to know our coworkers across Aqua’s eight states. Everyone pitched in and had great ideas,” Carlson said. “Many Aqua locations donated to the United Way in years past, but this was the first time we did so as a united front.”

We can’t wait to continue engaging our employees in meaningful community impact projects. Stay tuned to see where we make a difference next!

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Don’t let fats, oils and grease ruin your festive feasts

The holiday season is upon us and that means families will be spending lots of time in the kitchen in the coming weeks. Whether you’ll be cooking a festive feast or baking sweet treats, nothing can put a damper on holiday cheer quite like a stopped-up sink or costly drain clog. 

So how can you avoid clogged pipes this holiday season? The best way is to know what can and cannot go down your household pipes. The most common causes of clogs are fats, oils and grease, which can solidify in household drains and, over time, completely block pipes. Many common foods – including sauces, meats, dairy, cooking oil, butter, food scraps and lard – contain fats, oils and grease that can contribute to clogged drains, and should not be poured down drains.

Blocked pipes can back up raw sewage, causing serious health hazards. It can also create an overflow of raw sewage into parks, yards and streets, and pollute groundwater. On top of sewage overflow, blocked pipes can increase costs for local wastewater utilities and their customers.

After all, just like a clog can cause issues in your home, in extreme cases, giant clogs can build up in public wastewater systems, too. Check out this story about a huge “fatberg” that recently caused the public wastewater system in Baltimore to overflow – a story so strange it was even epitomized on a recent episode of "Saturday Night Live" ( see 1:04 mark)!

This holiday season, Aqua is offering customers the following tips to keep in mind as you prepare for holiday cooking and baking:

  • Never pour grease down sink drains or into toilets. Instead, pour it into a metal can, wait for it to cool, and dispose in the trash!
  • Use strainers in sink drains to catch food scraps and other solids.
  • Scrape food scraps and grease into a trash can.
  • Remember that garbage disposals do not keep grease out of plumbing systems or prevent clogs.
  • Avoid flushing wipes down the toilet. Baby wipes – and even wipes marketed as being “flushable” – don’t break down and can cause back ups and clogs.

Aqua does its part to ensure that local pipes and wastewater systems are free of clogs and operating at full capacity. You can do your part by taking necessary steps to avoid clogged pipes. Visit AquaAmerica.com for more information. 

 

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Ripple Effect brings volunteerism, work-life efforts into focus

Aqua is introducing a new campaign to bring into clearer focus all the good the company and its employees do for each other, and in the communities it serves.  The Ripple Effect will encompass volunteerism, the Aqua charitable trust, work-life balance and knowledge sharing, said Kimberly Joyce, vice president of legislative, regulatory and external affairs, who oversees the effort.

“At Aqua, we believe our mission, vision and core values shape us as an exceptional company,” Joyce said. “They enable us to go above and beyond, making a positive impact on water, the environment, our communities and our work together.”

Joyce said the Ripple Effect represents Aqua’s continued commitment to reinforcing these ideals, now and in the future.

Ripple Effect from volunteering

Aqua recognizes the value volunteer service has for both local organizations and employees. This year, following a pilot program in 2016, it has made a commitment to allow non-union employees eight hours of time to volunteer at company-sponsored events. Examples of those opportunities include planting trees, watershed clean ups, and working at local food banks.   

Aqua President and CEO Chris Franklin pointed out that there is just as much benefit to building camaraderie as there is for the recipients of the volunteerism work.

“When we put forth effort to make life better through the Ripple Effect, the outcome can be extremely rewarding,” he said. “We encourage all employees to participate, have fun, build newfound friendships and enjoy a shared sense of pride.”

Charitable trust’s Ripple Effect

Each year, Aqua’s charitable trust provides donations to organizations in the company’s eight states related to environmental stewardship and education, water and wastewater-related projects, emergency services such as fire departments and disaster relief, and community and economic development including arts and culture.

“When we donate dollars from our trust, we enrich lives throughout the communities we serve and advocate for the environment,” Joyce said. “Over the years, we have formed partnerships with impactful organizations such as the United Way. With our first companywide program this year, our employees raised $147,000. That shows the Ripple Effect we can have when we join together for a common good.”

Ripple Effect of work-life balance

Joyce says when Aqua helps its employees maintain a healthier lifestyle and enjoy flexibility, it improves the quality of work produced on behalf of the 3 million people it serves.

“With offerings like jump-start Fridays in the summer, wellness fairs and even local seasonal celebrations, we’re encouraging our team to find that balance we’re all seeking,” she said.

Knowledge-sharing Ripple Effect Villanova pic

From internships with Cristo Rey High School students to overseas travel with engineering majors, Aqua employees are sharing expertise and giving back to the next generation.   

Cristo Rey is a college-prep, high school in North Philadelphia that emphasizes helping students work towards college acceptance using work-study assignments in a variety of businesses like Aqua one day per week. Students learn about work skills from Aqua employees who coach and mentor these young men and women.

“It’s rewarding on both sides of the equation,” Joyce noted.

Another way Aqua employees share knowledge is by paring engineering students from Villanova University with the company’s professional engineers to tackle complex water supply problems in Central America.   

"Our partnership with Villanova University allows our employees to volunteer their time and expertise to help shape future engineers, while making a real difference for communities that need clean running water," Joyce said.

Other examples of knowledge sharing include participation in Junior Achievement, the world's largest organization dedicated to empowering high school students to own their economic success through programs focusing on work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy.

“The senior team encourages employees to really embrace this effort, and be the drop that starts a Ripple Effect for the good of your team, our customers, and our communities,” Joyce said.

 

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What Are Toilets Called Around The World?

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World Toilet Day highlights global need for sanitation

By Aqua Vice President and Chief Environmental Officer Chris Crockett 

Today, 4.5 billion people in the world live without a household toilet that safely disposes of their waste, according to the United Nations. In communities with weak sanitation infrastructure, pipework can break and raw sewage can be emptied into the environment. This puts waste into the open air where it is spread by flies, or contaminates farmland and water sources to make people seriously ill.

World Toilet Day, a day of observation designated by the United Nations General Assembly, provides an opportunity for global entities to work together to inspire action and tackle this sanitation crisis.

 

In the United States, it’s easy for consumers to take for granted the intense wastewater treatment process that occurs when water goes down a drain or toilet. Aqua, for instance, provides wastewater services to more than 250,000 people throughout the eight states we serve, and we operate 185 wastewater treatment plants and collection systems to safely treat this water.

Our company uses a stringent seven-step wastewater treatment process before returning the water to rivers and streams using the highest environmental standards. The wastewater is first transported from homes, schools and businesses to one of our treatment plants via underground pipes, where screens and other mechanisms remove materials like paper, rocks and sand. The third step, known as primary clarification, occurs when oil and grease float to the top of the water and are skimmed off, while heavier materials sink to the bottom of the tanks and are removed.

The water then moves to biological treatment and final clarification, during which microscopic organisms break down organic material in the wastewater. After this point, the primarily clear liquid flows through final clarification before it is sent through filtration, where the majority of remaining suspended particles are removed from the water. In the sixth step, disinfection, ultraviolet light and other treatment methods are used to kill all disease-causing organisms. The seventh step occurs when the treated water is discharged either for irrigation or put back into local rivers and streams.

Each day, Aqua returns 29 million gallons of wastewater into bodies of water cleaner than it came out. This clean water is critical to our water supplies, and is also critical to the fish and flora that need it to survive.

But in so many other areas of the world, countries are struggling to properly dispose of and treat the water to keep their human population healthy. The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, launched in 2015, include a target to ensure that everyone across the globe has access to a safely managed household toilet by 2030.

Aqua works to help developing countries by providing water infrastructure expertise in Central America each year, and there are ways we all can help to promote the importance of wastewater treatment during World Toilet Day. By visiting the World Toilet Day website, you can learn more about the issue and share information with your networks to promote this important cause.

 

 

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