Meet Aqua Indiana’s Yan Ma, Chinese Folk Dancer, as She Celebrates the Year of the Sheep

February marks the Chinese New Year — 2015 is the Year of the Sheep — so there is no better time to get to know Aqua Indiana employee Yan Ma, a Chinese native who will celebrate her fifth anniversary with Aqua this August. 

As a financial accountant based in Aqua Indiana’s Indianapolis offices, Yan is responsible for Aqua Indiana’s monthly, quarterly and annual internal financial reporting, in addition to reporting to regulatory agencies.

Yan moved to the U.S. from China 18 years ago. After graduating from Ball State University with a B.S. and M.S. in accounting, she held positions with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, Bankers Conseco Life and Ernst & Young, to name a few, before coming to Aqua.

When Yan isn’t dealing with numbers, she is getting in touch with her more creative side, sharing her culture through the art of Chinese folk dancing and singing. In fact, she has performed in many Chinese festivals in the Indianapolis area and is also a member of a local Chinese choir. Yan has been performing since 2002, when she first moved to Indianapolis. Her performances, she explains, allow her to build a bridge connecting her Eastern and Western cultures.

“Singing and dancing to my culture’s music helps me relax and relieves my homesickness, and most importantly, it is fun,” says Yan. “My dance team consists of professionals from within different industries including scientists, accountants, IT engineers, etc. I love dancing with these fine individuals and sharing my cultural background with local communities through various performances,” Yan says.

Yan also participates in half-marathons and loves to travel, embracing every culture along the way. She strives to be a global citizen in everything that she does.

Yan’s favorite water activity — aside from working in the water industry, of course — is to watch her children’s swimming lessons. She and her husband of 22 years, Mark, have two one-year-old twins.

Yan enjoys getting to know employees she doesn’t usually work with, so take the time to get to know her as she dances her way into a new year!

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Diary of an Aqua Water Drop: Chloe (Wastewater From Homes)

Hey there! It’s Chloe again. Last time we talked I told you about my epic journey from being a groundwater water drop to a clean, ready-to-be-used water drop. Well, do I have a story for you about where I’ve been since then! 

Wastewater From Homes

 

Today was a wakeup call for me. I was sitting in my tank minding my own business when woosh! I’m being shot through pipes and used to clean little Tommy who obviously had way too much fun at the beach today. Now I’m covered in sand, greasy sunscreen, a runaway beach tag, and soap — an uncomfortable situation — and am now considered wastewater. Goodbye my old friends who are wanted water drops. I’m now unsuitable to go home where I had just settled down. So alone and disgusting, it’s time to make my journey through these pipes into a world unknown.

 

Screening

 

As you know,  I feel completely and utterly yucky covered in grease, sand, and this darn beach tag.. If you’ve ever met plastics before, you know they can clog things up. Luckily our first stop is the screening process, so this freeloader jerk gets held back by a screen as I rush on through. It’s like a weight off my shoulder. 

 

Primary Clarification

Although I’m glad  my buddy the beach tag is gone, I’m still quite greasy, sandy, and soapy. Now soap is a fun thing to hang out with It’s bubbly and clean, but not the type of clean I want to be. Also all those bubbles have me feeling a bit gassy (not to mention the grease and the sand aren’t making things easier). After the screening, we were rushed along to primary clarification where the sand and grease finally sunk to the bottom – good riddance. They were clogging up my style. Meanwhile, my sweet soapy friend was whisked off by a skimmer. It was tough saying goodbye to such a fun thing as soap, but I have a feeling I’ll see it again.

 

Biological Treatment and Final Clarification

In the next tank I’m suddenly swarmed by microscopic organisms. Their job is to break down the organic material inside me. It tickles as they nibble away at the leftovers. Suddenly, I look around and realize everything is clear again. I hadn’t realized how dirty I’d become since the beginning of this journey, but it felt great to be more like myself again. 

 

 Filtration

Although I felt better, after all this time some particles were still clinging to me during this journey. Couldn’t they tell that this club was for water only? Thank goodness we got to the filtration tank because as I carelessly swam through, these clingy guys got held back. 

 

Disinfection

 

At this point things got weird. My fellow water droplets and I thought we were in the clear, but we were swiftly informed that harmful organisms that could cause people to get sick were possibly hiding in our ranks. It was scary. I wanted them to be gone so I could be pure again. Suddenly there was a blinding ultraviolet light shining on us – makes me wish I had Tommy’s sun glasses. We could hear as the harmful organisms left this world forever – the saying that only the good die young doesn’t apply here.

 

 Discharge

We’re finally home free! Who knew life could be this good? Now that we’re perfectly purified, we were gently poured into a river. Here I ran into some old friends from way back in the Jurassic years. It’s amazing how time does little to us aqua drops. We’re hoping this river leads us to Mexico or Hawaii. I’d love to come back to humanity as crushed ice in a mixed drink – I’ve done my time cleaning other people up and deserve some “me” time! Peace out!

 

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Imposter Alert: Protect Yourself and Your Belongings

Aqua recently learned of an incident involving a man identifying himself as a water company employee to gain access into a customer’s home and steal their belongings. Aqua would like to use this unfortunate event as an opportunity to remind our customers about this issue so you’re more aware in the future.

 

Imagine it’s the early morning and you’re home alone. A man outside identifies himself as a water company employee. He says there are leaks in your area, and he’s checking the homes on your street and needs to check your meter and the inside pipes. Once inside, he asks you to run water in the util­ity sink as he checks the upstairs bathroom sink. While upstairs, he steals jewelry and money left on a dresser.

 

In most cases, the only time Aqua would need to be inside your home is to service or exchange a meter or to respond to a problem about which you called us. In the former case, Aqua would contact you by mail or phone to schedule an appointment first.

 

There are a few exceptions when you might receive an unannounced visit from Aqua:

 

  • An employee might come to your door to make you aware of an unscheduled service outage, such as a main break. In this case, the employee would not need to access the inside of your home. An Aqua employee might also make an unannounced visit to investigate a property that has had multiple “zero usage” bills or an account that has not had a meter read for more than 45 days.
  • If a meter reader has trouble getting a remote meter read from outside your home, he might ask to enter you home to read the meter, in which case he would present a photo ID card.

 

 

For your safety and security, we encourage all customers to be extra cautious. Unfortunately, thieves like these might strike again. You can protect yourself by remembering the following information.

  1. All Aqua employees carry company identifica­tion. In all cases, please confirm the representative’s identification before letting them into your home.
  2. All employees dress in Aqua-branded attire similar to the uniform shown above.
  3. Company vehicles (mostly white Chevrolets) with the Aqua logo prominently displayed are always used.

If you encounter someone who is pretending to be an Aqua employee, please call your local police department and report them.

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Get To Know Aqua: Customer Billing Refund Analyst, Ann Russo

 

Back Row left to right: Rachel Lisacchi, Shawn McArdle, Lori Bristow, Lonnie Lott and Danny Albano
Front Row left to right: Coach Ann, Ben Coreano, Patrick Gilronin and Kevin Koethe

 

When Ann Russo steps onto the court, there’s no place for negativity. To her, and to her volleyball team, sportsmanship is about encouragement. Throughout her career as a Special Olympics coach one thing has always been constant: mistakes aren’t moments for criticism; they’re opportunities to learn.

 

Russo, who works at Aqua’s Bryn Mawr office as a customer billing refund analyst, has been involved with the Special Olympics for the past 30 years, starting out as a swim instructor while attending Marple Newtown Senior High School outside of Philadelphia. She moved onto volleyball 15 years ago. Since then, the time she’s spent helping people with special needs taught her as much about herself as it did those she assists.

 

“I’ve always had an innate coach in me, an innate teacher,” Russo said. “The fostering of athletes is not only in sports, it’s in self-esteem. It’s about having people come out of their shells and learn about themselves.”

 

The Special Olympics have an oath: Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. This mantra not only shaped Russo’s approach to coaching, it’s something she takes with her through life.

 

Her team, the Fighting Hawks, has nearly a dozen players spanning between ages 18 and 47. From Nov. 7 to 9, the team competed in the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Fall Festival tournament at Villanova University. The tournament features teams from across the state competing in seven divisions. The Hawks played against three other teams in their division throughout the festival.

 

Russo, who has been to the event 14 out of her 15 years as coach,  always makes sure her team is both mentally and physically prepared so no one gets overwhelmed. She said it’s important that her relationship with the athletes, both men and women, is defined early on. She’s responsible not only for their coaching but also their well-being. This parental role has permeated throughout her career as a coach. In the past, team members have jokingly called her “mom.”

 

“They know what Coach Ann says, goes,” Russo said. “You find different ways to communicate. You have to pull within yourself and find the best way to communicate what you’re thinking. It becomes a challenge.”

 

 

 

Russo has three rules: be focused and have fun; get your hands up and be ready; and use your dancing feet. Her playful attitude is what keeps her team relaxed and loose, she said. For example, before every game, the Fighting Hawks wiggle — as in, shake their whole body — for a final warm up. It’s important to remind her athletes that it’s just a game. Forget the nerves, she said, and just wiggle.

Russo’s philosophy on coaching is supported by her experiences in strengthening athletes. Since starting as a volleyball coach, she’s seen players gain confidence in themselves. They become more aware and more willing. They break out of their shells.

“You see them make strides and improve themselves as a person,” she said. “And that’s what’s more rewarding to them.”

 

Russo said the Fighting Hawks finished fourth in their division this year, losing to the first place team during a round robin match on the tournament’s final day. While it was tough a loss, Russo made sure her players focused on the experience rather than the defeat.

 “It’s about sportsmanship. It’s about respect for others and letting them understand it’s OK to make a mistake,” she said. “I tell them, you may have lost, but do you also understand how well you did?”

The theme at this year's Special Olympics Fall Festival at Villanova University was "Heroes Forever."

 

Steve Condodina and Danielle Sweeny pose with a Stormtrooper at this year's event. Condodina and Sweeny are part of the Fighting Hawks Skills group, which means they specialize in one aspect or skill. 

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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 many miles 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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