Polar Vortex, Polar Shmortex - Let's Go For A Swim!

You might not be surprised to learn that Aqua employees know a thing or two about plungers, but only a hardy few might take the plunge into a frozen lake. Aqua Virginia Operations Manager Tim Castillo and Area Manager Luther Ghorley dove into that challenge on Feb. 1st at the eighth annual Polar Bear Plunge in the Lake Land’Or community near Fredericksburg in central Virginia. Sponsored by the Wright's Chapel United Methodist Church in Ladysmith since 2006, the plunge raises money for programs like emergency heating assistance and food pantries that help families in need. Wright’s Chapel Pastor Charles Tillapaugh said that the event has grown to include other churches and community organizations, and the plunge raised about $19,500 this year.


 

The frosty lake temperature of 32 degrees required organizers to break the ice for about 50 swimmers, some in costume, including Castillo, who dressed as Aquaman. After the plunge, a few hundred residents enjoyed bonfires and a chili cook-off, and Aqua’s Dale Stewart served s’mores.

Castillo’s Aquaman emerged from the pack as best male costume.

Ghorley noted that the lake’s sharp ice blocks made the plunge a little painful — though bearable, and both men welcomed the opportunity to do good while having fun. “Aqua delivers essential services to families, and it’s important to us to contribute to the health and well-being of our communities,” said Castillo.

Aqua provides drinking water and wastewater service to about 4,500 people in Lake Land’or.

 

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Get WaterSmart!

We’re very excited to show off Aqua WaterSmart, an interactive program to help consumers conserve water in their homes and learn about the water treatment process. The new program is available on the home page of the Aqua America website.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the U.S. population has doubled over the last 30 years and the demand for drinking water has tripled during this time,” said Aqua Chairman and CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis. “Further, more than half of our country is facing water shortages. At Aqua, we recognize the importance of proactive conservation to protect this important resource and remain committed to bringing clean, safe drinking water to our customers for the cost of about a penny a gallon.” 

The interactive program is an illustration of a home, with clickable elements in each room that provide water conservation tips for everyday activities, such as cleaning, gardening and personal care. The program is available as a mobile web app on tablets and smartphones, and accessible on most web browsers for desktops and laptops.  

The program also focuses on education about how water travels from a source to the tap, with downloadable infographics that explain the processes to treat surface water, groundwater, and wastewater. “Most people turn on their tap water every day without realizing how source water is treated and then delivered to their home,” said Karl Kyriss, executive vice president, who oversees Aqua’s information technology department. “We created this resource to help educate consumers about the entire process, which further supports our focus on conservation. By conserving water use in day-to-day activities, we save water and energy, reducing our total environmental impact.

By working together to save water in small ways throughout our home and daily routines, we can make a big impact and help save water,” added DeBenedictis.

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Bill Wills: Soaring to New Heights

Bill Wills received flight lessons as a birthday present from his wife in 2006. From then on, learning how to fly an airplane became his goal, and he reached it in 2007, when he earned his pilot’s license.

To get there, he studied for more than 60 hours, had guided flight lessons and passed a final test. A key step was showing that he could smoothly lift off and land his pane on the runway alone.

“The first thing you have to learn is to do things in small increments,” he said.­­­­­

After his first solo flight, his flight instructor ceremoniously cut his T-shirt with scissors, which is a tradition among pilots. 

Cutting a student’s shirt after his or her first solo flight symbolizes their growth as a pilot – and the fact that they no longer need an instructor yanking on their shirt and shouting instructions from the back seat.The practice dates back to the days of aviation before radio systems, according to pilot and aviation writer Rod Machado. Flight instructors would sit behind their students and get their attention by yanking their T-shirts.

Wills owns his own single-engine aircraft now: a 1946, American-manufactured Cessna 140. Cessna produced approx 10,000 of the 140s after World War II, with only about 2,000 still flying today.

Wills houses his Cessna 140 at a hangar in Kennett Square, Pa., close to where he lives. It takes him 30 minutes to fly to Ocean City, N.J., high above the bottleneck traffic. And from there, it’s a five-block walk to the beach. He also enjoys flying to Myrtle Beach and the Chesapeake Bay.

“There’s nothing like waking up at five in the morning, driving out when there’s no traffic, and flying,” he said.

Wills flies to plane-enthusiast events and wants to one-day fly to Europe to attend gatherings for Cessna owners. “I just like the freedom, the challenges, and the people you meet,” Wills said of going to these events.

“I want to expand myself, become a better person and experience things firsthand,” Wills said. “Life experiences make you the person you are.”’

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Wills joined Aqua in April 2011 and is the Information Technology  Director of Business System Support. He previously worked for 17 years as a senior manager for information services and marketing at Wawa, a chain of convenience stores. Wawa and Aqua are similar Wills said, in that they are both people-oriented businesses and leaders in their respective industries.

Wills has a PMP certification and master’s certificate from George Washington University and a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Widener University. Midway through his career at Wawa, he began to manage the company’s marketing and branding. Providing both technological support and marketing strategy taught him how those two business components could be merged.

“To be successful in any organization you have to communicate well build strong relationships and get a full understanding of the business,’ he said.

More Information:

Cessna Pilots Society 

Wawa Markets

Rod Machado’s Aviation Blog

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Help Us Help You

When you turn on the faucet, you expect water to flow. But both extremely cold and extremely hot weather can cause water mains to break — and cause customers to lose their water service for a few hours or longer while we make repairs. Aqua provides an essential service that our customers count on every day, and we understand that you want to know as soon as possible if your water service is disrupted in some way. Now, we can get important information to you however you prefer — by email, text or phone.

  

WaterSmart Alerts is our automated notification system to inform customers about local water service issues faster and more efficiently. WaterSmart Alerts automatically notifies customers by phone, email, or text message about water main breaks, precautionary boil advisories, temporary disruptions and other issues that affect your water service.

But WaterSmart Alerts only work if we have your updated contact information. That means we need you to help us help you!

Just log on to AquaAmerica.com and click on “WaterSmart Alerts” to update your contact information, or customers without Internet access can call 877.987.2782 to tell us how you’d like to be notified about local water service issues in the future. You can choose your preferred method of contact — email, phone call or text message.

Don’t be surprised if we call or email you with other news about Aqua that we think you’ll want to know. For example, we might call to tell you about a customer town hall where you can learn about your community’s water system and meet the employees who operate it. Or we might call to let you know in advance if we’re flushing the pipes in your area. It’s important to us to keep in touch with our customers. After all, you had us at hello.

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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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