Aqua President and CEO Chris Franklin talks water infrastructure with national media, congress

 

By Aqua President and CEO Chris Franklin

Over the past few weeks, I had the pleasure of talking with some national news outlets as well as congressional subcommittee members about the state of water infrastructure in America and Aqua’s commitment to investing in our aging water systems.

As you can see in my CNBC’s Squawk Box segment, the American Society of Civil Engineers recently released its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, giving U.S. water infrastructure a “D” grade and wastewater infrastructure a “D+.” The reality is that our country has more than 1 million miles of water pipe, much of which was laid in the early 20th century and in critical need of replacement.

While this is a major challenge facing our country, Aqua is working to be a part of the solution. We are committed to renewing and improving water and wastewater infrastructure through thoughtful and continuous capital investment. It’s why Aqua will invest more than $450 million in water and wastewater infrastructure in 2017 alone, after having invested $1.5 billion in capital improvements over the past five years. 

I also spoke with national infrastructure reporters about the importance of letting private capital go to work to assist municipalities struggling with aging water systems, instead of providing federal financing for infrastructure projects. Aqua has a proven record of purchasing both municipal and private water systems, injecting needed capital into the systems and developing the infrastructure required for clean drinking water and wastewater. You can read more about that in my interview with Hilary Russ of Reuters.

As then president-elect of the National Association of Water Companies, I also had the opportunity last month to provide testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives' Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment. I underscored with our elected officials that companies like Aqua and our fellow NAWC member organizations are well-positioned to help cities and towns address long-neglected water and wastewater infrastructure maintenance. It’s my firm belief that we will continue to be part of the solution.

I’m proud that Aqua is playing a leading role in providing solutions for struggling water and wastewater systems. In speaking out on these issues, I hope to continue to raise awareness on the importance of water and wastewater infrastructure in our country and of Aqua’s role as a leader in protecting and providing Earth’s most valuable resource.

 

 

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DIY Salt Water Taffy: The Perfect Halloween Candy

 

Halloween is right around the corner, and with all the costumes, decorations and sweet treats, it’s the perfect season for DIY projects. Instead of your usual store-bought candy, why not try making tasty Halloween treats right in your own home?

 

This easy recipe for DIY salt water taffy is a great example of one of the many ways in which water can be utilized for fun, and it’s the perfect way to kick off fall festivities.

 

What you’ll need:

  • Medium-sized saucepan
  • Small baking dish
  • Candy thermometer
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Waxed paper

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter (and extra to butter your pan and hands)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon glycerin
  • food coloring and flavoring
  • Sprinkles (optional)

What to do:

  1. Butter your small baking dish and set it aside for later. Then stir together sugar and cornstarch in the medium sauce pan. As you're stirring, slowly add in the corn syrup, butter, water, salt and glycerin.
  2. Place the mixture over medium-high heat and stir continuously until the mixture comes to a boil. Once the mixture boils, stop stirring, insert the candy thermometer and wait until the mixture reaches 254 degrees F.
  3. Once the temperature is 254 degrees F, you may remove the mixture from heat and stir in your food coloring and flavoring. The color you use will not alter the flavor or texture of your taffy. Note: Color will fade when the pulling process begins.                                                                
  4. Now you can grab your buttered baking dish from step one and pour the mixture right into the dish. (Make sure you applied a generous amount of butter so the taffy doesn’t stick to the pan.)
  5. Allow the taffy to cool. Once the taffy is sufficiently cooled, generously apply butter to your hands and begin to pull the taffy. Do this by pulling up the taffy into both hands, then pulling it apart and back together until the taffy is firm enough to sustain its shape. For a visual demonstration of this process, head here.                               
  6. Now butter your scissors thoroughly (be careful not to cut your hands). Stretch the taffy into a long rope-like shape and use your buttered scissors to cut the taffy at 1 inch intervals.
  7. Wrap your taffy in small wax paper squares and store in an airtight container.

Now that you’ve made your taffy, it will last you approximately two months. You can keep it around the house as a tasty treat or share with family, friends or even coworkers.

Whether you’re indoors handing out candy or going door-to-door trick-or-treating, it’s important to stay safe on Halloween. Don’t forget to check back here to see what other fun and inventive activities you and your family can enjoy this season.

 

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Aqua customer operations VP says customer service is a company-wide effort

 

By Aqua Vice President of Customer Operations Georgetta Parisi

This week, Aqua joins organizations across the globe observing Customer Service Week (CSW), a celebration of the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis. The designation is so important that 25 years ago, U.S. Congress proclaimed Customer Service Week a nationally recognized event to be celebrated annually during the first full week in October. I’m so pleased to be joining Aqua just as we’re ready to honor the employees who serve millions of people across our eight states. 

As a public utility providing a life-sustaining service, customer service is an integral part of Aqua’s daily business operations. Customer service has been fundamental to the company’s 130-plus year history, and to its growth over the past several decades. We value our customers, realize the integral part water plays in their daily lives, and recognize the importance of excellent customer service every single day. In fact, it’s a part of our company’s vision.

Aqua is lucky to have a bench of talented, dedicated employees who are working on the front lines and interacting with customers. They are the real “face” of our company, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to recognize and celebrate their hard work throughout the year during this special week.

The celebration spans far beyond those in our customer service department—we know that customer service is a company-wide effort. Any Aqua employee who comes in contact with our customers, from our technicians to our meter readers, plays an integral role in shaping the customer experience. And a lot of our employees are in roles that support those representatives. To that end, each employee has a responsibility to carry out the company’s vision for excellent customer service.

  

In my new role with the company, I look forward to bringing Aqua’s customer service to an even higher level. I’m excited to be a part of this organization and look forward to helping to drive an excellent experience for all of our customers.  I extend my deepest thanks for the work our Aqua employees do to serve our customers. Thank you!

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National Preparedness Month highlights the importance of being ‘ready’

By Aqua's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Fox

National Preparedness Month may now be over, but hurricane season is not. As we have unfortunately seen over the past month, all it takes is one storm to cause immeasurable damage to our communities. While Aqua does everything in its power to prevent the loss of service during a storm, heavy rains may cause groundwater wells and treatment plants to flood, and pressure losses from broken water lines and power outages can increase the risk of water contamination.

Customers can take important steps to prepare in advance of devastating weather events and other natural disasters. In recognition of National Preparedness Month, Aqua joined with the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign to provide important water tips to prepare for such an emergency.

Determine water needs.The Ready Campaign recommends storing at least one gallon of water per person for three days, for drinking and sanitation. Keep in mind the following:

  • The average person needs about three quarters of a gallon of fluid daily from water and other beverages.
  • Children, nursing mothers and anyone who is ill may need additional water.
  • For those living in a warm weather climate, more water may be necessary; in hot temperatures, water needs can double. 

Store water in advance. Water is a valuable resource and will be needed for multiple uses if an emergency situation occurs. Customers can also prepare their own containers of water for use during an outage ahead of time, using the following tips:

  • Thoroughly clean the bottles with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse completely so there is no residual soap.
  • Fill the bottle to the top with regular tap water. If the water you are using comes from a well or water source not treated with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to the water. A slight chlorine odor should be noticeable in the water.
  • Tightly close the container using the original cap; do not contaminate the cap by touching the inside of it with your finger. Place the date on the container, as water must be replaced every six months. Store in a cool, dark place.

 

Shut off water connection to home. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, cracked water lines may pollute the water supply to houses. Prior to evacuation or if there are reports of broken water or sewage lines, water connections to homes should be shut off until your water utility says it is safe for drinking. Shutting off the valve may help to reduce or prevent water contamination and provide an extra source of water in an emergency situation by providing access to water that was already in the pipes. Follow these tips to shut off water to a home:

  • Well before inclement weather arrives, take the time to locate the shut-off valve for the water line that enters the house. Label this valve with a tag for easy identification during an emergency and make sure all household members know where it is located.
  • Make sure this valve can be completely shut off. The valve may be rusted open or it may only partially close. If so, replace it.
  • To use the water in your pipes after shutting off the valve, let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your home at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from the lowest faucet in the home.

 

Properly disinfect water. Customers can also ensure water is properly treated before drinking it by doing the following:

  • Boiling is the safest method of disinfecting water. In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking. Oxygen can be added back into the water by pouring it back and forth between two clean containers. This will improve the taste of stored water.
  • Chlorination can also be used to treat water. To disinfect water, use regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite, and do not use bleaches that are scented, color safe, or have added cleaners. Add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water doesn’t have a slight bleach odor to it, repeat the dosage and let stand for 15 more minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water.
  • Distillation can remove germs that resist boiling and chlorination treatment methods. To distill water, fill a pot half way with water and tie a cup to the handle so that the cup is inside of the pot’s lid, facing upward when the lid is on the pot. Boil the water for 20 minutes –the water that drips into the cup is distilled.

 

Stay alert. After a storm, Aqua will alert customers if they are under a precautionary boil water advisory. Methods of communication may include phone, text, email, door hangers, signage, radio, newspapers and/or television news broadcasts. Aqua will also provide an update when boil advisories are lifted. Customers can also check the status of a precautionary boil water advisory, outages and other alerts anytime by visiting AquaAmerica.com or by calling Aqua customer service toll-free at 877.987.2782.

Dealing with a natural disaster is never an easy task, as the nature of emergencies can be so unpredictable. Ensuring enough access to clean, drinkable water during an emergency should be a key element to any preparation plan.

 

 

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Building a culture of inclusion at Aqua

By Aqua Talent Acquisition and Diversity Lead Satnaree Brandon

“Excuse me, miss, do you work at Aqua?” said a voice breaking me from the trance of my iPhone while commuting on the regional rail one morning.

“Yes, I do. Can I help you?” I asked, unsure if I was about to speak to a customer.

“You spoke to my son at a job fair two months ago. I can’t express how much it meant to me that you spent time with him asking him questions about his resume, coaching and engaging him in conversation,” she said

I braced myself for a long conversation with a doting mother, then I quickly remembered speaking with the woman and her son, who happened to be visually impaired, two months before. I handed them both my business card, which includes braille text, and encouraged her son to follow up with me if he was interested in applying for a job.

As the diversity lead at Aqua America, part of my job is to help pave our way as an employer of choice that values diversity and inclusion in the utility industry, which is not necessarily known for this. Speaking to a person who is visually impaired at a job fair might not seem significant, but I had conveyed to this young man and his mother that Aqua is a welcoming place to work, we are inclusive, and we place great value on you as an individual.

In traditional terms, growing a diverse workforce means that Aqua seeks to hire and promote a variety of people, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender or gender identification, sexual orientation, age, background or ability. But beyond building a diverse company, Aqua is looking to be an inclusive company, with a supportive and respectful environment where all employees can achieve their full potential.

Regardless of color or creed, it is human nature to seek out an inclusive workplace. Fair treatment, equal access to opportunity and feeling welcomed as a teammate who belongs there help to build a happy and engaged group of employees. When we talk about inclusion, we are talking about how we make the mix of differences come together and have meaning, with the ultimate goal to provide everyone a seat at the table.

Aqua understands that building a culture of inclusion requires representation of diversity at all levels of the organization, and Aqua’s approach has been to build this from the top down. While 20 percent of our leadership at the vice president level and above is female, which is uncommon for our industry, we are also working to ensure a similar collection of diverse outlooks throughout the rest of the company.

But our goals extend beyond making sure we hire women, veterans, minorities, or any other specific group. It’s about transforming Aqua’s recruitment and retention strategy to ensure that we recruit, train, retain and promote engaged, passionate employees who will flourish.  In taking initial steps to realize this vision, Aqua is exploring partnerships with diversity organizations to build a talent pipeline specific to diversity. We’re also actively participating in career forums, attending young professional networking events, partnering with veterans coalitions to engage, hire and support transitioning veterans to civilian life, and encouraging mentor relationships with the senior leadership team.

   

While I’m at the beginning of my tenure with Aqua – only nine months in this role – I am encouraged by senior leadership’s belief that diversity and inclusion is an essential aspect of our company’s culture as we continue to grow. I always say that if you build an inclusive culture they will come, and I look forward to updating you in the coming months on the progress we’re making to transform our company. 

 

 

 

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