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 manymiles 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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Water Expands When It Freezes. Your Pipes Do Not.

 

There’s nothing worse than a burst pipe in the dead of winter. With snow falling and temperature dropping to a 20-year low, now is the time to protect your pipes from the ‘Polar Vortex’. Fortunately, Aqua has some simple tips that you can do to lessen the impact of freezing temperature and protect your home.

Remember, plumbing located against exterior walls in unheated basements and crawl spaces is particularly vulnerable to the cold and at the highest risk of freezing or breaking.

Eliminate Drafts. Close crawl spaces, vents and doors. Repair broken or cracked basement windows. Make sure basement doors and windows close tightly.

Insulate Pipes. Be sure pipes in unheated parts of your property, including crawl spaces, are protected by properly installing heat tape or pipe insulation found at most hardware and plumbing supply stores.

Remove Outdoor Hoses. Exterior faucets and hoses are first to freeze. Remove for the winter season.

And when it’s really cold, 10 degrees or less, or you aren’t home, leave a thing stream of water running from at least one tap farthest from the water meter; open cabinet doors below sinks to allow warm home air to better circulate (always remove cleaners and chemicals to keep out of reach of small children).

If your pipes freeze and you can locate the frozen area, open the nearest tap, then use a hand-held hair dryer (blow dryer) or heat tape to thaw the area. . Hold the dryer about six inches from the pipe and move the dryer slowly back and forth. If this method fails after a reasonable period of time, call your plumber immediately.

For additional information, contact Aqua at 877.987.2782 or visit www.AquaAmerica.com.

 

 

 

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From Caddy To President

When Don Donatoni was just 12 years old, he fell in love with the game of golf. He would hit plastic golf balls around the yard of his house and pretend that each of three balls was a famous golf pro — Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Whichever ball hit the flagpole in his front yard first won the game. He never imagined that he would one day meet all three of his golfing heroes in person and become a champion in his own right. He went on to win the 2010, 2012 and 2013 Pennsylvania Golf Association state championships; has qualified for and played in the United States Senior Amateur Championships; and in 2013 earned “Player of the Year” status for the Super Senior Division of the Philadelphia Golf Association.

Donatoni has also learned many life lessons through the game of golf. He discovered the value of a strong work ethic, perseverance and building relationships. This has served him well in the business world, where he is vice president and regional general manager of Aqua Pennsylvania; president of Aqua Resources;and president of soon-to-be Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater, Inc.

Donatoni is the son of a hard-working lumberjack and sawmill owner. At 13 years old, he gravitated to the local country club where he hoped to become a caddy. He soon learned that he had to work his way up by shagging balls. “In those days, they didn’t have big machines to pick up the balls on a driving range,” he explained. “Back then, every member brought their own bag of used balls to hit on the range. After every shot, the caddies had to run and pick up the ball and put it back in the empty bag. When the player was finished, I ran back and handed him his shag bag full of balls and he handed me my tip, the first dollar I ever earned! When I got my first caddy job carrying a bag, I was paid $4.50. Today, some caddies make as much as $100 per bag!”

Although it was hard work, caddying did carry some privileges. Every Monday when the club was shut down for maintenance, caddies could play for free. “We played from sun up to sundown until our hands were raw,” recalled Donatoni. “That’s where I developed a real love for golf.”

As a high school senior, Donatoni won the North Jersey High School Scholastic Golf Championship, the first of many victories. While an engineering student at Villanova University, he took his only hiatus from golf in order to keep up with academic demands. After graduating, he was back on the links as a member of White Manor Country Club in Malvern where he won the club championship during his very first year as a member. Since then, he has won 28 club championships; a formidable record that will likely never be broken.

In 2010, he reached the pinnacle of his amateur golf career, winning the Pennsylvania state championship as well as the Philadelphia Golf Association’s prestigious Tournament of Champions in which he surpassed all private club champions in southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware with a score of 68.

“To come out on top is something very special that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” Donatoni said that golf has also helped him establish and build long-lasting business relationships over the years. “I can’t tell you how many deals I’ve been able develop or close as a result of playing golf,” he said. “You have the opportunity to become friendly and begin building working relationships with people.

“Golf is a fascinating study of human behavior,” he continued. “You learn a lot about a person over 18 holes. You’ll see how they react to the highs and lows of the game. You’ll gain an understanding of the person’s character, personality, attitude and competitiveness, and you’ll know immediately whether this is someone you can work with and trust in a business deal.”

Golf is also a great escape for Donatoni. “There’s nothing better than being out on the golf range on a warm, windless night in summer hitting practice balls as the sun goes down. It takes you away from the pressures of the world and just makes you feel good. At the same time, the practice helps you stay sharp,” said Donatoni, whose handicap is 0 (scratch).

 

For More Information:

White Manor's Donatoni completes Super-Senior Division sweep

2013 Player's Dinner: Don Donatoni speech

White Manor's Donatoni tops USGA Senior Amateur Qualifier

Aqua Resources Leadership Team

 

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Getting To Know CEO Nick DeBenedictis

You may know that Nick DeBenedictis is the President and CEO of Aqua, but what you might not about his love for dogs and a vacation spot he’s called home in the summer for six decades. Get to know Nick a little more as he answers 10 questions about the past, present and future.

1. You have been Aqua America’s CEO for more than 20 years. Looking back what do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?

Without a doubt, it’s the investment of more than $2 billion in needed water and wastewater infrastructure. Our initial and primary focus was on upgrading and rehabilitating the plants and treatment systems to stay ahead of the more stringent federal, state and local water quality regulations that were taking effect at that time. Afterward, we ramped up the replacement of our aging distribution systems. These programs were part of our mission and commitment to provide reliable service and clean, quality drinking water.

2. When you were first appointed Chairman and CEO, what was your vision for Aqua? 

I was nervous! It was my first and only position as a CEO, and although I had governmental and non-profit executive experience, I had never been at a publicly traded company. At the time, the company was not doing so well financially, so my first priority was to stabilize the finances.

3. What have you learned from the company’s success?

The successes have been our key acquisitions and the expansion of the company from local to national. We needed to do small acquisitions first and gradually take on the bigger prospects. Through this process, were able to assess the risks and apply improvements as we moved from smaller to larger acquisitions. 

4. What do you believe our employees should know about Aqua?

I think it’s important that employees understand our history and culture of being a leader in a very crucial industry. I hope that it will help them with new challenges that require a new investment of time, knowledge and money.

5. What would you like employees to know about you? 

I care a lot about the employees and the company, and what we do every day to improve the environment. The proper balancing of the four-legged stool [employees, customers, shareholders and community] is so important to our company, and I hope employees understand that it is essential to Aqua’s survival.

6. Who are the members of your immediate family? Do you have any pets? 

My wife and I have been married since 1968 — our wedding song was “Cherish” by the 5th Dimension. We have two children and five grandchildren. Throughout much of our married life, we had dogs — a Bassett Hound and Boxers. I love my dogs. We don’t have one now and I miss that. 

7. What is your favorite place to vacation? 

For 63 years I’ve been going to the North Wildwood beach [in New Jersey].

8. What is your favorite holiday? 

Christmas - the time of giving. But I’ve got to be honest, I love Halloween. Each year I try to be home because I really enjoy giving candy to the kids and seeing their costumes. Giving out the giant-sized Hershey bars has become a tradition at my house.

 

9. Do you have a role model or a hero? Who is it? 

My father, he had the most influence on me. He was hardworking and very generous — always giving to others, he was a very nice guy.

10. There are many grateful recipients of your personal thank-you notes. How did someone in environmental engineering become so communication savvy?

It’s just instinctive to acknowledge and show respect for people who do something good for the company or society. I’ve learned that expressing your appreciation verbally or in writing with genuine thank-you notes is a small but sincere gesture.

 

For More Information:

Aqua Management

Nick DeBenedictis Forbes Profile

Drexel University LeBow College Of Business Nick DeBenedictis Highlight

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Paperless Billing Delivers Benefits

In today’s tight economy, utility companies are pressured to improve customer satisfaction, reduce costs, and protect the environment. A successful billing method helps Aqua America achieve all of these goals.

Aqua Online, the paperless billing solution, gives customers the option of receiving their water or wastewater bill electronically through the Aqua website. It also allows customers the option of paying their bill electronically. The system is convenient for customers, lowers paper and postage costs and saves trees.

The move to Aqua Online will bring rewards. According to a survey by PayItGreen, there is a direct connection between paperless billing and customer satisfaction – customers who switch to online payments tend to be happier. The paperless system will also bring significant cost savings to Aqua “Financially, it’s less expensive for the company to send an electronic bill than a paper bill, mainly because we eliminate the cost of postage,” explained Aqua Regional President Rick Fox, who was vice president of customer operations when the company developed Aqua Online. 

“There’s also a much quicker delivery time, and when people get a paperless bill, they typically pay a few days sooner than they do with a paper bill.”

The change to paperless will also conserve tress. Aqua typically mails around 850,000 paper bills a month, each one generating at least three pieces of paper: the bill, the return envelope and the mailing envelope. Often, other paper materials – billing stuffers, letters and regulatory information, such as water-quality reports – are also enclosed in the mailings.

Using less paper is only part of the environmental picture. According the PayItGreen survey, if 20 percent of American households switched to paperless bills, statements and payments, more than 100 million gallons of gasoline would be saved, annually, and greenhouse gases emitted by delivery vehicles would be reduced. 

 

For more Information: 

Sign-Up for Aqua Online Billing

 

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