Get the (Earth Day) Party Started with Aqua!

 

At Aqua, we’re obsessed with all things related to our most precious resource: water

Since we’re also obsessed with the source of that water (Earth) it should come as no surprise that we’re big fans of Earth Day

In anticipation of the upcoming occasion, which eco-conscious folks all over the world will celebrate on April 22, we thought we’d take an inside look at the ways Aqua is committed to acting as a sustainable steward to the environment.

Read our thought-provoking conversation below with Network Control Engineer Dan Kirchheimer, our Aqua employee responsible for compiling Aqua’s sustainability report.

 

 

Dan Kirchheimer

With Earth Day just around the corner, what does Aqua do as a company to celebrate or recognize the occasion?

Aqua sponsors a number of stream cleanup days throughout March and April where employees and other volunteers walk along streams, creeks and rivers and pick up trash and debris that have collected along the shoreline and in the water. Each year, volunteers pull hundreds of tons of trash across numerous cleanup sites.

The final mountains of trash bags contain more than just plastic bags, paper and soda cans. Volunteers find tires, engines, refrigerators, shopping carts, scrap metal and just about anything you can imagine. Aqua partners with the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy, the Chester Ridley Crum Watersheds Association (CRC), and the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, just to name a few. The annual CRC cleanup alone has removed more than 600,000 pounds of debris over the last 18 years.

Aqua Illinois customers in Kankakee depend solely on the Kankakee River to serve more than 80,000 residents. Aqua Illinois employees and local volunteers are now entering their 34th annual river cleanup as part of the Adopt-a-River program. The company is responsible for a one mile portion of the river that employees clean twice a year. This is one of the oldest continuous river clean-ups in the country.

Aqua Pennsylvania has also supported the TreeVitalize Watersheds program since 2005. This group has assisted in the planting of more than 40,000 trees along the banks of key watersheds for the last decade.

By investing in reforesting stream banks, this natural infrastructure helps reduce the amount of contaminants reaching our source water and helps slow natural erosion and soil degradation. This greatly improves stream water quality, improves the habitat for local environments and decreases storm water runoff.

 

Aqua Illinois employees during the annual Kankakee River Clean Up

What can Aqua customers do to make a sustainable difference this Earth Day? 

Carry a Nalgene, thermos or other water bottle around with you – even a simple cup with a lid. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to save money and still have fresh, cold water at hand.

Other ideas for how to help in a positive way on Earth Day include:

·      Volunteering for a local stream cleaning event. It will only take a few hours, and your actions will make a huge difference and make you feel great.

·      Planting trees along a creek, in a park or even your own backyard.

·      Composting your old food scraps and feeding that to your hungry plants.

·      Replacing a shower head to a low flow variety. If you live in a drought-prone area, this can save thousands of gallons of water over its lifetime for only a few dollars.

Just keep in mind, if you do nothing, expect nothing to change. One person may not make a difference, but if everybody just helped a little bit, things would start to look a lot better.

How would you like to see Aqua and similar organizations continue to practice and improve sustainability efforts in the future? 

Ever since the Industrial Revolution,  man has created amazing machines and technology to increase efficiency, production and our way of life. However, for too long, the environment has paid the price for our actions. In this modern era, we have the knowledge and ability to do things better and keep the environment in mind. Being sustainable doesn’t always have to cost more. I’d like to see more companies get creative and create mutually beneficial partnerships that both save money and help protect the environment.

“Going green” shouldn’t be a catch phrase or a way to simply cut costs. Companies have the power to inspire and create change. They can and should find opportunities that help everyone involved.

We don’t always have to keep doing things because we’ve always done them that way. Change can be good. We should embrace technology, new ideas, methods, viewpoints and ways of thinking.

Inspired to make a change this Earth Day? Remember what Dan said – everyone pitching in a little bit can make a big difference.

 

What will you pledge to do for your planet on Earth Day 2016?

 

 

 

 

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Environmental Engineering: What is it, Anyway?

This April, all of us at Aqua are focused on environmental sustainability, which means we’re celebrating members of our team who work closely with the environment.

 

There are a lot of different types of engineers out there: mechanical, aerospace, biomedical, civil… the list goes on. Aqua tends to work with one particular type the most: environmental engineers.

OK, so environmental engineers are probably super smart and super environmentally friendly. But what exactly do they do?

To find out, we talked to Pete Kusky, one of Aqua’s very own regional environmental engineers. He gave us the scoop on the art of environmental engineering and the best way to get started on a path toward a career in the field.

 

How would you explain your job as an environmental engineer?

Environmental engineering is typically defined as a field that protects and preserves people and natural resources. At Aqua, we do both.

 

How did you become an environmental engineer? What’s your educational background?

My background is in civil engineering. Environmental engineering is a subset of civil engineering. [I have a] BS and MS in civil engineering, but I learned just as much while in operations at Aqua.

 

On a day-to-day basis, what type of environmental engineering projects do you work on at Aqua?

Everything we do involves stewardship. Whether it is optimizing treatment processes for environmental compliance or upgrading infrastructure with the best available technology, everything drives toward protecting our most vital resources: water and people.

 

What aspect of environmental sustainability is nearest and dearest to you?

 Making decisions that are truly a benefit to our stakeholders.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring environmental engineers?

Start at the bottom and don’t be too anxious to get to the top – no job should be beneath you. Everyone you encounter, including those who you believe are experts in environmental engineering are simply guides along your path. Your aggregated experiences are as important as any individual’s absolutes.

 

What about students who may not have considered the field before?

Life is a journey you can’t predict. Consider environmental engineering if you have a desire to make sound decisions based on good data.

 

So there you have it. Environmental engineers use technology and data to optimize sustainability and environmental preservation, whether through the infrastructure of water or other vital resources.

How will you up your eco-friendliness throughout the rest of the month? Let us know in the comments! 

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Aqua Appoints Deborah Watkins As New Director of Water Quality and Environmental Compliance

Aqua has hired Deborah Watkins as its new Director of Water Quality and Environmental Compliance. Watkins replaces Colleen Arnold, who became the company’s deputy chief operating officer in September of last year.

Watkins comes to the company with more than 30 years of experience, most recently as senior project manager at O’Brien & Gere, an engineering firm with advanced manufacturing, energy, environmental, and water services.  She was responsible for identifying, developing, and managing initiatives involving water and wastewater treatment facility consultation, design, construction, and regulatory permitting. Prior to working for O’Brien & Gere, Watkins spent several years at Weston Solutions, Inc. where she began her career as a technical director of engineering.  She was promoted to vice president after successful development of the pharmaceutical industry practice and subsequent development of the upstream oil and gas practice in the company’s Mid-Atlantic division.

“We are pleased to have someone with Deborah’s experience and education lead our environmental compliance team at Aqua,” said Vice President and Chief Environmental Officer Mike Pickel, to whom Deborah will report.

Watkins earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Bucknell University and a Master of Science degree in water resources and environmental engineering at Villanova University. She is a licensed professional engineer in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

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Get to Know Aqua: Operations Support Coordinator Nancy McGee

As we celebrate our 130th Anniversary this year, we celebrate all of our dedicated employees that have made Aqua a great place to work. Operations Support Coordinator Nancy McGee will end her 43-year career with Aqua when she retires at the end of this month. Get to know one of Aqua's longest employees as she shares some of her final thoughts on her career and prepares for the next chapter in her life. Congrats and good luck, Nancy! 

 How long have you worked at Aqua?

43 years. I began my career in 1973 at Garden State Water Company

What was your first job?

Customer service representative

What positions have you held?

Currently I work as the operations support coordinator in New Jersey. Before that, I was a customer service manager for New Jersey and for New Hampshire, when we serviced that area. I was also a billing supervisor in our Bryn Mawr, PA offices.

Which was your favorite and why?

Although my titles have changed, my responsibilities have been about the same throughout. I enjoy that there is always something different every day. There is nothing negative about my job. Some people think that “customer service” is the call center, but the truth is that we’re all in customer service. We are all here to provide a service.

What led to your longevity at Aqua?

Focus. You have to be focused on what you’re doing. I like the challenges that come with the job. My job is not boring. I also like the fact that there’s never a line at the ladies’ room.

What are the most dramatic changes you’ve seen at the company during your 43 years here?

Technology has come a long way. Back in the day, employees relied heavily on direct phone contact to coordinate service between the field and the office. Today, we use digital information to update and document projects.

Have there been any changes in customer interaction or customer queries during your tenure?

Not really. The questions have not really changed because we’re providing the same service today as we did decades ago.

What did you most look forward to coming to work at Aqua?

The variety of challenges that I faced every day and being able to look forward to something different.

What are you looking forward to most about retiring?

I have yet to find out, but I’ll let you know!

Is there anything else you would like to share with Aqua employees before you retire?

Enjoy life.

 

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Aqua Illinois Appoints Colton Janes as Director of Operations

Aqua Illinois President Craig Blanchette has announced the appointment of Colton Janes as the state director of operations. In his new role, Janes will oversee operations for all three service regions in Illinois and support plans for continued growth within the state.

Janes previously served as the central area manager for Aqua North Carolina, where he managed nearly 400 water and wastewater systems across 10 counties.

“Colton knows water and wastewater systems from design through operation,” said Blanchette. “Just as important, he understands that our customers are at the center of everything we do, and he doesn’t stop working until they’re satisfied. That’s the high standard of service Colton delivered for Aqua in North Carolina, and that’s the service he’ll provide to families right here in Illinois.”

After receiving his Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Janes designed water and wastewater systems for an engineering firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. He later operated water and wastewater systems on the North Carolina coast. His career progressed to municipal operations, where he oversaw capital improvement programs and managed new construction. Janes grew up on a farm in Stillman Valley, Ogle County, Illinois, where his family owned a water and wastewater contract operating company. Janes became involved in the industry at an early age when he visited plants with his father, a now-retired wastewater system operator. 

“I’m proud to come home to Illinois and remain part of the Aqua family,” said Janes. “Our skilled and experienced team works hard to deliver quality water and dependable service every day, and we’re committed to maintaining and improving our water and wastewater systems so we can serve generations to come.”

Janes is a licensed professional engineer and is certified in Illinois as a class 2 wastewater operator and a class B well and surface water operator. Janes and his wife, Jecca, live in Bourbonnais.

Aqua Illinois provides water and wastewater service to more than 63,000 homes and businesses in Boone, Champaign, Cook, Dekalb, Kane, Kankakee, Knox, Lake, Ogle, Vermilion, Will and Winnebago counties. Visit AquaAmerica.com for more information, or follow Aqua on Facebook at facebook.com/MyAquaAmerica and on Twitter at @MyAquaAmerica.

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