Aqua employees made a Ripple Effect throughout National Volunteer Month

National Volunteer Month, which is recognized during April each year, puts a focus on both spotlighting volunteers across communities, and encouraging volunteer efforts throughout the month. As a company, Aqua puts an emphasis on the importance of volunteerism. The Ripple Effect campaign was created in 2017, and has volunteerism as one of its four pillars, along with the Aqua charitable trust, work-life balance and knowledge sharing. Employees across Aqua's eight states take part in volunteer efforts year-round, but made an extra effort throughout April in honor of National Volunteer Month. Check out some of their efforts:

Illinois:

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(Above) Aqua Illinois’ east central division employees helped pack food for the Food for the Children program, which provides meals to 450 students in the Danville school district, and participated in a Lake Vermilion bridge cleanup activity to keep the local drinking water source and the environment clean. (Below) Aqua Illinois’ central division traveled to Camp Shaw-waw-nas-see in Manteno to remove invasive honeysuckle, then shred it and use it for mulching paths. Aqua Illinois' North Maine division cleaned up debris at two sites – Apollo Elementary School and Heritage Pointe condominium complex in Des Plaines.

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Indiana:

Aqua Central Indiana employees helped process more than 11,621 pounds of food and nonfood items (which translates to 7,747 meals) at Gleaners Food Bank. 

New Jersey:

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Aqua New Jersey volunteers packaged more than 150 lunches for The Unforgotten Haven, whose mission is to help the less fortunate. 

North Carolina:

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(Above) Aqua North Carolina employees helped package food at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina in Raleigh, and volunteered with Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. (Below) Aqua North Carolina employees volunteered at the Greensboro Urban Ministry Potter's House Community Kitchen, which provides free meals each day to those in need, serving nearly 200,000 meals every year.

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Ohio: 

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Aqua Ohio employees from our Mentor and Ashtabula divisions partnered with the American Red Cross to install 117 alarms in 45 homes. 

Pennsylvania:

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(Above) Aqua Pennsylvania employees partnered with Brandywine Red Clay Alliance to clean up trash and debris along the stream via canoe. Among the findings were street signs, scrap metal, safety cones, patio furniture and water bottles, cans and glass, among other things. (Below) Aqua White Haven Division employees partnered with Luzerne Conservation District and members of the Hayfield Farms Homeowners Association for the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership to plant 400 trees along the East Branch of Harvey’s Creek.

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Texas:

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Aqua Texas is scheduled to once again contribute to the Carry the Load event, scheduled for May 24, which honors our nation’s military service members and emergency responders. Aqua will once again providing drinking water to attendees of the event using one of our potable water trucks. 

Virginia:

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Aqua Virginia employees volunteered at Feed More Richmond, which is dedicated to providing healthy meals and hope to Central Virginians who face hunger. Aqua volunteers helped prepare food for the days' deliveries.

 

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Bringing a fresh filtration system to North Carolina

At Aqua, we’re always proud of our projects that help to improve water quality for our customers, but this week, we have a special reason to highlight these positive changes: It’s Infrastructure Week!

As we all know by now, water infrastructure greatly impacts both the quality of your water and the quality of your life. By investing in new infrastructure in our service areas, we’re making strides to change our communities for the better. That’s why our team has been hard at work implementing a new filtration system in Upchurch Place, a community in Raleigh, North Carolina.

What’s the deal with filtration?

Filtration systems, when necessary, are a crucial part of water infrastructure—after all, they help to remove unwanted naturally occurring minerals. Aqua has provided water to Upchurch Place since 2002, and we’ve built quite a relationship with our North Carolina community.

We spoke to Aqua North Carolina’s Michael Melton, engineering manager, and Amanda Berger, environmental compliance director, to learn more about the recently completed project. Melton noted that the goal of the new filtration system is the removal of iron and manganese. While both elements are naturally present in tap water, keeping their levels below the secondary standard is important.

Changes in Upchurch Place

After hearing reports of discolored water from customers in the Upchurch area, we identified the problem and got to work on implementing a solution.

“Since installing the new filters, the treated water has iron and manganese levels well below the secondary drinking water standard,” Melton said. “In addition, we’re proud to announce that Aqua is the first privately owned water provider in North Carolina to utilize a non-discharge backwash system.” (Aqua developed the first recycle water system in 2010.)

What’s a non-discharge backwash system? Long story short: It allows us to eliminate water loss in the filtration process, therefore upholding our mission to provide and protect Earth’s most essential resource. The best part is that our customers will only see a .70 cent increase in their annual water bill for this major improvement—and it’s well worth it.

Aqua’s commitment to excellence

Providing our Upchurch customers with a new and improved filtration system was no small feat.

“On average, a filter project like the one in Upchurch can take up to nine months to engineer and construct,” Melton said. “At Aqua, we also make it a priority to work with local financial and environmental regulators to improve every aspect of our service and reliability.”

“This project is a good example of how Aqua is working with its stakeholders to achieve the goal of improving our customer’s water quality,” Berger added.

Although these projects take a good amount of time, money, and resources, they’re necessary in order to improve the state of our country's infrastructure. As water providers, it’s our goal to supply our customers with safe and reliable water—and it doesn’t hurt that we’re helping to restore our nation’s infrastructure in the process.

Stay tuned for our next Aquastructure blog to see what we’re up to next, and in the meantime, we’re wishing our customers and professional peers a very happy (and productive) Infrastructure Week!

 

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Aqua employees and Villanova University students return to Panama for service trip

 

During the first week of March, Villanova University engineering students and professors traveled with Aqua North Carolina President Shannon Becker, Aqua Pennsylvania Vice President, Distribution Mike Fili and Electrical Maintenance Manager Joe Gallagher to Wacuco, Panama to work with Panama-based partner Father Wally to improve water delivery and quality in the community. The trip marked Aqua and Villanova’s fourth service visit to the country since 2016. This year the Aqua and Villanova team worked together on multiple projects including water quality testing, rehabbing water tanks and upgrading a steel bridge in the community.

To provide employees with an inside look at their experience in Panama, Becker, Fili and Gallagher shared their thoughts on this year’s trip.

Tell us about what you and the team were doing in Panama.

    • Becker: Since this was my first trip, I didn’t really know what to expect. I wanted to help in any way that I could, including spending this time getting to know the Villanova engineering students. One of the projects I worked on was to add a layer of concrete to the surface of a bridge that Father Wally previously installed using a railroad car. The Villanova students did whatever was needed, and the local residents even came down to help shovel gravel. The students not only got to use their brains on this project, but also discovered muscles they didn’t know they had as they worked side-by-side with the local residents who were so appreciative. The sense of community and desire to help was amazing!
    • Fili: We worked on a few projects. One of our major projects was repairing water tanks. Not only were we going in to repair them, but we also wanted to teach the local operators who work with Father Wally how to perform these repairs in the future, so they could continue to maintain them on their own. The Villanova students were so eager to help and finished the first tank project much quicker than expected – they completed the repairs in one day! Overall, we were down in Panama to provide labor and knowledge.
    • Gallagher: There were members of Villanova Engineering Service Learning {VESL} and a senior design team that came along this year. I specifically worked with this team, which had the task of trying to modify existing PVC straight pipe that, once heated, would mimic a cast iron coupling. The students created a prototype that we were able to put to test and refine in the field.  As a result, they are making some modifications based on their learnings and expect to deliver the prototype to Father Wally for use this coming summer.  It was great working with these bright students and bouncing ideas off each other.

What was the main goal of this trip? 

    • Becker: The primary objective was to help Father Wally and the community accomplish the repairs to the water tank and provide on-going knowledge. For me, I was looking forward to getting my hands dirty and just being part of this overall effort while connecting with the engineering students. I wanted to share knowledge with them, be a good role model, and provide career advice wherever possible. This experience helps provide the students insight into the real world, outside of a textbook. I wish I would have had an opportunity like this VESL project while in school.
    • Fili: For me, the main goal of the trip was meeting and working with the students and having a positive relationship with them. It was an incredible group of young people; they were extremely motivated, talented and intelligent. It was also great being able to work with the Villanova leadership and my fellow colleagues.
    • Gallagher: For the Senior Design project, the main goal was to get the device to work and prove that it is functioning, which we were able to accomplish. Before we left Panama, we also sat down with Father Wally to go over other items he may need help with in the future.

What was the biggest challenge or obstacle during the trip?

    • Becker: Personally, I think the biggest challenge was the language barrier. Unfortunately, I did not take Spanish in school and had to rely on a translator to communicate.  It would have been nice to be able to speak to the local residents and workers to better understand who they are and how they live. 
    • Fili: For me, the challenge was language. I thought it was great that there were people in the group who were fluent in Spanish and were able to help translate. When we would go into the stores for materials, it was hard to communicate with the employees to try and get what we needed because of the language barrier.
    • Gallagher: The one challenge was the language difference. The crew that Father Wally has working with them is very helpful, but I was only able to interact with them a little bit. So, I would say the interactions with the locals was a little bit of a challenge.

What has surprised you most about Panama?

    • Becker: I was surprised to see what Father Wally has been able to do with so little. It was astounding to see what they fixed and repurposed by turning a useless item into a useful tool.  It was eye opening to see the conveniences we take for granted and the different lifestyles. Haircuts were $3 and you could buy fresh meat on the side of the road – goats and chickens just waiting to be purchased on the way home for dinner!
    • Fili: I think the language barrier stood out to me the most. I wish I was able to communicate better with the locals because they were fantastic and very nice. Everyone was very welcoming with the projects and were there to help us with whatever we needed.
    • Gallagher: Even though I have been on previous trips to Panama, it still surprised me how much Father Wally has accomplished. The water systems he has established are incredible to see firsthand. You can’t fully appreciate it until you see it in person.

What does the partnership with Villanova mean to you? 

    • Becker: I was aware of the partnership we were developing with Villanova, but being in North Carolina, I hadn’t been as close to it as some of my colleagues in Pennsylvania. I think it’s a great opportunity to partner with a prestigious university that also has a practical application as part of their program where they can reach out to the community and get real-life experience. Our connection with Villanova has enabled us to use them as a resource, whether it’s hiring students down the road or working with them in the community, I’m thankful for the opportunity to contribute and proud to say that I’m a part of this program. It’s a fantastic opportunity to develop a great relationship with the school and its students.
    • Fili: To me, relationships are everything. I really enjoyed working with the students and faculty of Villanova and building relationships with them. You never know when you’ll cross paths again, whether it be for a future job, a recommendation, whatever it might be. It was great meeting new people and building connections.
    • Gallagher: It’s a great opportunity and it lives up to Aqua’s mission of protecting Earth’s most essential resource. For Aqua to enable their employees to go on a trip like this is great and shows their commitment to the community and helping others. When you go to communities like those we visited in Panama, it makes you appreciate this resource and understand that not everyone has easy access to water like we do. I was really impressed with how the students worked together and the time they put into this trip. It made me feel young again to be around college students.

Did you try any new or unique foods while in Panama? 

    • Becker: I tried sugar cane juice that was made by one of the local residents helping on one of the jobs.  It was homemade and served straight from a bucket, which is the only way to have it!  We also had rice and hot dogs for breakfast several days, which I’ve never had in combination before, or at that time of day (and without ketchup).
    • Fili: We had a lot of beans and rice and I tried hot tuna, which I never had before. I also tried a complete fried fish, the whole head and everything!
    • Gallagher: We had all local food and I enjoyed it. We tried chicken stew, feet included! We also had a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Most interesting thing that happened while on the trip? 

    • Becker: Aside from showering with a tree frog and waking up to howler monkeys dropping nuts on our tin roof, the limited access to paved roads and their condition jumped out to me. Riding in the back of Father Wally’s truck through the mountains was an invigorating experience. Overall, I created so many great memories working with Mike and Joe, who I got to know well and developed a strong bond.  This entire trip was interesting and memorable.
    • Fili: When I got up the first morning, the magnitude of the equipment they had and the size of the operation Father Wally built over the years really surprised me. You have one man who basically started a water system from scratch with very little resources – the vision, perseverance and dedication to get things done is amazing. Father Wally does it all.
    • Gallagher: When we realized we completed all our assigned tasks, we celebrated and discussed our highs and lows of a trip. It was great to sit around with everyone and discuss the highlights of our time in Panama.  

Anything else you would like to add about your experience? 

    • Becker: Looking back, I wish I would have had this type of experience while in college - I just didn’t know what I was missing.  To be able to apply what you are learning to a practical experience, and in a way that helps others is so rewarding and valuable - it sends you down a different path and one I will be sure my kids travel.
    • Fili: I had a great time on this trip. It was a great opportunity for me to be able to work closely with Shannon and Joe, who are tireless workers. We were always looking for the next thing to do. It was a great experience all around and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
    • Gallagher: I really enjoyed being able to work with Shannon and Mike. It was a pleasure working with Father Wally and it was really satisfying to be able to help with whatever projects he needed done. He always says to us that he lives simply so others can simply live. He talks the talk and puts his heart and soul into his work. It was great being a part of the experience and making memories with other members of the team. It makes you enjoy the little things in life.

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Are you up for a Drinking Water Week challenge?

 

It should come as no surprise that at Aqua, we celebrate water every day. But during the American Water Works Association’s Drinking Water Week, it’s an especially perfect time to remember how water makes up nearly 71 percent of our planet and 60 percent of the average human body. Yes, water is all around us, but remembering to drink the recommended daily amount can be hard—life gets busy, after all.

Speaking of that recommended amount, let’s get the numbers straight: Although one glass of water may feel like enough to quench your thirst, adults should drink two liters of water per day. (That equates to eight eight-ounce glasses of water.) It seems like a lot, but it’s what your body needs!

In honor of Drinking Water Week, we’re challenging YOU to make a positive change in your hydration habits. Ready for a little friendly competition at home—or even with your coworkers? Here’s Aqua’s challenge to you: drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water every day during Drinking Water Week (May 5–11). If you can do that, you might just be crowned a Hydration Hero!

Want to get your coworkers, family, or friends in on the challenge? Let’s dive in.

Setting rules and keeping score

Whether you’re implementing your Drinking Water Week challenge at home or at work, it’s important to set some ground rules.

If you’re challenging your coworkers, think about how you can keep score as a group without disrupting your workflow too much. Instead of checking in daily, it can be more efficient and suspenseful to keep a tally on the office fridge for everyone to update at their leisure. Set a deadline for when the numbers will be tallied, and get your (reusable!) water bottles ready.

How about a friendly competition at home? Teaching your families about proper hydration can help them lead healthy lifestyles and understand more about the importance of water for the human body.

Setting up a group chat can be a fun way to track each other’s progress. That way, you can all motivate each other to reach your daily goal and see who gets there first. By the end of the week, it will be easy to tell who should be awarded the Hydration Hero title.

Awarding prizes

Once you’ve tallied your scores, checked them twice, and declared a winner, it’s time to award your Hydration Hero! If your coworkers are looking for a little incentive to get involved, offering a prize is an easy way to encourage participation and excitement. Our advice? A reusable water bottle is not just fitting for the winner, but it’ll also encourage them to keep up their good hydration habits. 

If your household accepts the challenge, the stakes can be a bit higher—how about a weeklong exemption from a household chore like doing the dishes? Whatever you choose, giving your winner a little something special can make everyone eager to reach their hydration goals next year. 

Keeping up the practice

Water is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle, and the more you can incorporate hydration into your everyday routine, the better. Even though it’s normal to skip a glass or two when life gets busy, the important thing is to pay more attention to your water intake.

If you can’t hit your two liter goal every day, don’t sweat it. As long as you’re staying hydrated, spreading the word, and doing your best to appreciate all the great things that water does for you, you’re a Hydration Hero in our book!

 

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Make an environmental impact during National Volunteer Month

April is National Volunteer Month, and here at Aqua, we’re passionate about both our planet and the people who live on it. That’s why so many of our year-round volunteer activities involve doing our part to take care of the environment, especially when Earth Day rolls around.

To celebrate both National Volunteer Month and the annual holiday that recognizes our planet, we’ve rounded up a variety of ways for community members across all eight of our states to get involved with environmentally focused events and activities throughout April. Let’s dig in!

Illinois

Get up and break a sweat in honor of Mother Earth! The seventh annual Earth Day Race takes place on April 20 in Crystal Lake, Illinois and will lead runners on a beautiful tour through the woods—the perfect way to enjoy nature.

If you’re an Illinois teacher, you can also get your classroom involved with Earth Day in the Parks, a series of events from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in which students can participate in “natural resources stewardship activities” such as planting trees, building brush piles, and more.

Live near the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign? Check out the school’s wide array of sustainability-focused events throughout the month of April to find one that interests you.

Indiana

Create new life this Earth Day by gardening at Chellberg Farms on the morning of April 20. If you’re located in the central part of the state, head to the Earth Day Indiana Festival at White River State Park to enjoy exhibitors, food trucks, and hands-on games and activities like hula hoops, lightsaber duels, and more. Sounds like a good time if you ask us!

New Jersey

On April 13, Clean Ocean Action will hold its 34th Annual Beach Sweeps event up and down the New Jersey coast, where participants can do their part to keep the state’s beloved beaches clean. Get a head start on shore season by browsing the list of Beach Sweeps locations to find one near you. Then, check out EarthShare New Jersey’s roundup of additional Earth Day activities across the state, from trail cleanups to live music.

North Carolina

If you’re on the hunt for an artistic way to celebrate our planet, you’ll love the Earth Day Jam from local nonprofit Happy Roots. Located in Salisbury, North Carolina, the two-day event (April 19–20) features more than 15 bands and all kinds of Earth-oriented arts and crafts. Get tickets here.

Further west in the state, Durham Parks and Rec will host an Earth Day Festival full of performances, food, and environmentally focused educational opportunities on Sunday, April 28. To volunteer at the event, head here.

Pennsylvania

Those located in central Pennsylvania have tons of opportunities to celebrate Earth Day, from the Mechanicsburg Earth Day Festival to a volunteer day at Little Buffalo State Park. Visit PA also put together a list of Earth Day-related events and places to visit in honor of the occasion, including everything from beautiful state parks to the Philadelphia Science Festival’s Naturepalooza.

(Psst: On April 6, the largest single day stream cleanup in Pennsylvania took place at the Perkiomen Creek Watershed. Members of our Aqua Pennsylvania team were there to help—were you?)

Ohio

Celebrate Earth Day with a weeklong event of volunteer opportunities throughout Central Ohio known as Earth Day Columbus. Then, reward yourself and your fellow volunteers for all your hard work at the Earth Day Columbus Celebration in Genoa Park featuring music, eco-friendly artisans, family fun, and more.

If you live in northeast Ohio, you’re in luck as well: Check out this list to browse events ranging from hikes to movies to parties at the zoo, all in celebration of our beautiful planet.

Texas

They say that everything’s bigger in Texas, which means there’s even more Earth to love—and protect! Earthx2019, described as “the world’s largest environmental experience”, takes place from April 26–28 in Dallas. “Water for all” is the event’s 2019 theme, so you can imagine that we’re extra excited here at Aqua! Between workshops, yoga, food trucks, and plenty of opportunities to get involved, there’s something for every member of the family to enjoy.

If you’re located closer to Austin, swing by Earth Day ATX on Saturday, April 13 to enjoy the annual zero-waste festival full of performances, food, and family activities.

Virginia

Virginia is for lovers… of the planet! Head to Radford’s Bisset Park to enjoy an Earth Day Festival on April 20. With activities including sunrise meditation, tree planting, river cleanups, kayaking, and more, you won’t want to miss the sunrise-to-sunset event.

There are an infinite amount of ways to honor our planet this Earth Day, and we’re proud that each of our Aqua states is jam-packed with opportunities to get involved. If there’s not an event near you, don’t worry—you can still make an impact by implementing these eco-friendly tips from the Earth Day Network into your everyday life.

Earth is the only planet we have, and it’s our job to take care of it. We hope you’ll join us during National Volunteer Month!

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