Get To Know Aqua: Regional Customer Care Coordinator Danika Owens

Get to know Aqua and the employees that work day in and day out to provide quality customer service and reliable drinking water to approximately 3 million customers. In this week’s ‘Employee Highlight,’ we spoke to Regional Customer Care Coordinator, Danika Owens.

1. My name is… Danika Owens 

2. If I had to pick 3 words to describe myself, they’d be…athletic, outgoing and considerate

3. My title is... Regional Customer Care Coordinator 

4. That means I (do what?)….. I provide customer operations support to Aqua Illinois.

5. When I was a kid, I always thought I’d grow up to be... an FBI agent

6. I work with water for a living, but my favorite water related activity is... Swimming and Jet Skiing

7. In the summer, you can find me...on a bike trail, relaxing on the beach or eating seafood/crabs.  A perfect summer would be the ability to do all three, everyday.

8. My co-workers don’t know this, but I’m actually a big fan of... large family gatherings/reunions.  I come from a family of 13 brothers and sisters and 21 aunts and uncles.

9. Do you have any pets? Yorkie-Poodle mix, her name is Daisy and she turned 6 years old on May 20th

10. My favorite “guilty pleasure” snack is… a banana split with 3 scoops of ice cream (2 scoops chocolate chip, 1 scoop of strawberry), marshmallow and caramel toppings, walnuts, sprinkles, gummy bears, whipped cream and cherries

11. Don’t tell anybody, but I’ve always had a celebrity crush on…Leonardo DiCaprio

12. Aside from water, my favorite drink is… Simply Raspberry Lemonade

13. Favorite weekend activity: I love to jog 3-4 miles very early Saturday and Sunday.

14. If I could be one movie character, I would be...Mumble from ‘Happy Feet’. Mumble couldn’t sing but could tap dance.  He wasn’t concerned with what he couldn’t do yet more focused on what he could do. Although the colony did not accept his dancing, in the end, he used this gift to save his colony.

15. Since I started working at Aqua, the most fun I experienced was… acquiring a friend (Olivia H.) who would later become more like a sister

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Water for Elephants

Ann Lewis has been fascinated by elephants – or “ellies” as she affectionately calls them – ever since she was a child.

Before she joined Aqua’s Human Resources Department and became responsible for employee training and development, Ann began a personal mission to educate the public on the ivory trade crisis and elephant welfare.

For several years, Ann has supported the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a field organization in Kenya dedicated to rescuing orphaned elephants wandering alone in the wild after their families - tragically - have been killed by poachers for their tusks. These orphans are the youngest victims of the poaching crisis. She will be traveling to Africa this Fall to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and to also go on a safari, where she is excited about seeing wild elephants in their natural habitat.

Last year, Ann had the opportunity to volunteer at the world-renowned sanctuary, Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, where she personally interacted with elephants. This experience was life-changing and strengthened her already deep passion for saving elephants from extinction.

After her trip to Thailand, Ann participated in the International March for Elephants, held in Washington, D.C. last year. The march was as part of the iWorry campaign organized by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. It was there that Ann and fellow activists decided to form Elephants DC, a non-profit organization, which aims to end the ivory trade and promote elephant welfare through education, advocacy and awareness.

Ann is also an active member of Animal ACTivists of Philly, where she protests the use of captive elephants in circuses.

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Harvesting the Importance of Water

At work, Regional Compliance Manager Michael Melton ensures that Aqua’s water and wastewater systems follow North Carolina and federal laws, but he spends most of his free time working on his two-acre farm.

Many evenings, I come home, and my wife Wendy and I gather our five children and work on the farm until dark," Michael says. “I’m a hard worker by nature, so I don’t like to go home and turn on the television. I’d rather be outside spending time with the kids. We put in 10 to 15 hours a week on the farm, and I rely on them to help out — even my youngest pitches in by gathering eggs and picking beans.”

In addition to providing quality family time, the farm serves a practical purpose. “With groceries being so expensive — and with my sons being big eaters — the eggs from our chickens help keep our grocery bill down. The farm gives us broccoli, lettuce, potatoes, onions, corn, beans, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, watermelons and cantaloupes. We also make our own bath soap and laundry detergent. As prices continue to rise, many people are looking for cost-efficient ways to provide healthy food for their families.

But amid the family's agricultural successes are times when Mother Nature doesn’t play nice. “Every year there’s some sort of obstacle,” says Michael. “If you’re in a drought, you have to keep enough water on the crops or you’ll lose them. Sometimes you get a good early crop and feel like you’re ahead of the game until a hailstorm comes and ruins it, which is always hard. One year we had a bumper crop of corn and lost at least a third of it because of tornadoes, hail and bad storms. We’ve dealt with all of the problems that go along with having a farm.

On the job, Michael travels the state, guiding regulatory compliance for 702 community well systems and 61 wastewater treatment plants. “Both in the water and wastewater areas, regulations have become more stringent; they’re ever-changing,” he says. Across North Carolina, Aqua tests approximately 16,000 to 17,000 water samples every year.

Now and then, Michael's colleagues at Aqua benefit from his success on the farm.

Harvesting the crops is an exciting time, and when we have extra it’s a great blessing to be able to give some to my co-workers,” he says.

 

 

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House Hunters Aqua Edition

On a residential street in an Illinois community, you’ll find a house where no real estate agent will take you. The light beige house on a landscaped yard is home to a filter system that removes naturally occurring iron from the well water that serves thousands of people. 

The house blends into the well-kept neighborhood, providing an attractive alternative to an industrial building. Aqua operator Jennifer Murphy remembers driving a surprised environmental regulator up to the house for a plant visit. The local waste removal service dropped off a recycling bin, and a roofer once left his card. Jennifer notes that Aqua is a good neighbor. Suggestions that the house could use a little sprucing up prompted us to power wash the siding last year. Flowering pear trees planted some years ago now dot the front yard. At Aqua, we don’t just provide our neighbors with clean drinking water, we keep up with them!

 

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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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