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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Our 125-Year Journey

It all began in 1886 when a group of engineering professors from Swarthmore College in southeastern Pennsylvania became concerned about the safety of the local water supply. With typhoid fever surfacing in nearby towns, they were taking no chances. They abandoned their wells and established their own water company with one primary goal: to protect public health. Starting that home-grown organization, Springfield Water Company, was like throwing a pebble in a pond.

These educators could not have imagined the huge ripple effects that would be produced by their tiny venture, which served the residents of a small village. The company ultimately grew into Aqua America, a publicly traded, water- and wastewater-utility holding company, serving about three million people in 10 states.

The company’s 125-year journey has been an adventure with growth, expansion, building and modernization. Throughout the years, the company’s core mission has remained true to its origins: to provide quality water in a way that ensures public health and environmental quality.

“We’ve always been the industry leader for sustainability of our product and environmental protection, long before those two phrases became the mantra,” said Nick DeBenedictis, Aqua America chairman and CEO. “To meet those goals, we have made huge capital investments in our infrastructure. We are an engineering and technology-driven company that strives for excellence in our product.”

During DeBenedictis’ 20-year tenure, the company has experienced unprecedented growth through acquisitions. Focusing on its core business of water and wastewater utilities, Aqua has completed more than 250 ventures, which have quadrupled its customer base and more than tripled the number of employees, from approximately 500 to 1,700.

“Our vision for growth through acquisition was driven by the need for greater efficiency in our country’s water systems,” explained DeBenedictis, the company’s longest-serving chairman.

“The United States has more than 50,000 water systems, and less than one percent of these systems serve more than 100,000 people. Much of the infrastructure dates back to the early 1900s. A huge capital investment is necessary over the next 20 years for our country’s systems to meet more stringent federal and state drinking-water regulations and standards. By acquiring smaller, less efficient, less well-capitalized companies and investing in improvements, Aqua is helping to meet this need.

“At the same time, this growth strategy benefits our customers and employees, as well as our investors,” he added. “Since 1992, we’ve increased our value to shareholders from $100 million market capitalization to about $4.5 billion market capitalization.”

For more information about Aqua America & Nicholas DeBenedictis check out:

About Aqua

What it Means to Lead: Nicholas DeBenedictis, Chairman, CEO, and President of Aqua America, Inc.

Pennoni Honors Aqua America Chairman and CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis with Award

Aqua America NY Times Section

 

 

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Welcome to the Aqua blog!

Welcome to the Aqua blog!

Since 1886, Aqua has provided families with quality water service. In 2013, about 3 million people in 10 states use Aqua America as their water and wastewater utility. Over the past century, we’ve seen our fair share of change as a company and a community, including the way we communicate. We know that you’ve changed the way you communicate too. In the past, we received letters and phone calls from our customers, but now you want to talk to us online and through social media.  

We created our social media sites to better inform, educate, assist and engage with you, our customer. Aqua is equally dedicated to our customers, employees, shareholders and communities, as each represents our success and our potential growth. Whether you have an issue, comment or just want to chat, Aqua’s social accounts are here to help. We’ll listen to what you have to say. 

The blog you’re currently reading will cover a wide range of recyclable/green topics, customer questions and highlights about our employees and volunteers. We feel this is a great opportunity for you to get an inside look at who we are and what we stand for as a company.

Our Facebook will keep you up-to-date on what’s happening in the water industry through third-party news articles, fun and informative visuals. It will also be a place where we can communicate directly with our customers. We’ll share photos of new projects around the country and highlight employee culture and customer service stories.

The Aqua America Twitter page will be your main source to interact with us so we can provide support and help point you in the right direction. If an emergency arises, our Twitter account will also serve to help keep you updated in real time. 

Please pop over to say hi, ask questions and see everything that they have to offer. 

See you on the Internet!

- The Aqua Team

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