Breaking Ground in Franklin County, Ohio

 

 

  

After some time in a smaller facility, our Aqua Ohio team is finally getting a big upgrade! Large windows with natural sunlight and energy-efficient fixtures are in the works within a larger space so our team members can better service our Ohio customers. 

 

The goal of this facility improvement project was to create a professional and safe work environment for our employees and visitors. We also wanted to maximize space while minimizing capital costs, which means almost 100% of our space will be utilized in one way or another. Dave Dunn, area manager for Aqua Ohio’s Franklin Division, has kept us updated on the building’s progress, informing us that things are going well so far. 

 

 

So, what’s new?

 

“Our old office had a very small conference room—so small that we needed to rent out spaces for meetings that involved more than eight people,” Dunn tells us. A conference room with a white board for collaboration and strategic planning was a key part of the facility’s upgrade. Of course, the open office environment also takes the social distancing guidelines and precautions of our new normal into account so that team members can work together both safely and productively.

 

Dunn estimates that the building will be ready for use within six months of breaking ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

How does this affect our customers?

 

“We’re adding updated water and wastewater laboratories that manage all testing requirements for 10 different locations in central and southeast Ohio,” Dunn informed us. “We're also including an environmentally controlled garage space for equipment and load trucks.” This means our tools will have longer lifespans and our response times will improve for customer emergencies. 

 

“We’re working with our local fire department to allow them to do training on our old office once we vacate,” Dunn adds. The department will conduct firefighter rescue training, smoke training, and even live fire training in the space. 

  

 

 

 

We’re so glad our old office space can be of use while we provide a new and improved experience for our Ohio team and customers. Here’s to a new era of Aqua in Ohio!

 

 

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Innovating Infrastructure in Lake Monticello

 

Our Aqua Virginia team recently completed an innovative wastewater treatment plant upgrade to improve service, protect local waterways, and operate more efficiently for the Lake Monticello community just outside Charlottesville.

 

Aqua had two overarching goals. We wanted to improve the quality of the plant’s treated wastewater, which is discharged into the stringently regulated Chesapeake Bay watershed. We also wanted to minimize future rate increases for customers by reducing operating expenses and deferring the need for a major plant overhaul, which would cost much more.

 

Consulting the Expert

 

We spoke to Aqua’s operations manager Dan Hingley, who engineered the project and oversaw construction. “While upgrades to water systems typically result in obvious improvements for customers — like better pressure or more reliable service — improvements to a wastewater system often go unnoticed,” said Hingley. “In fact, many of us don’t even think about our wastewater after it goes down the drain or is flushed away. Meanwhile, a lot of effort goes into collecting, transporting, and cleaning wastewater, and customers rely on us to protect the environment and their local waterways. This project demonstrates how we do that.”

 

 

 

The treatment concepts we used aren’t new, but the way we applied them required creativity and innovation to achieve goals at a lower cost. Making wise decisions about which treatment process to use and which types of equipment to install alleviated the total capital cost of the project. 

 

Aqua reconfigured the layout of the wastewater plant and added some new aeration system controls to optimize treatment. The team used baffle walls to create new zones within the existing tanks. These baffles control water flow, prolong the amount of time the wastewater spends in treatment tanks, and separate a single tank into multiple treatment stages. While the previous process was a single tank that was continuously aerated, the modified process added new zones that weren’t aerated to allow specific bacteria to eat organic matter in the untreated wastewater, which removes a nutrient called nitrogen.

 

In these new unaerated zones, Aqua had to install a mixing system since it was no longer being provided by the diffused aeration system. Aqua collaborated with a neighboring utility to design and build mixers that connect to the existing air supply system and release large air bubbles, rather than the smaller diffused air bubbles, to induce mixing. This solution costs less to create and costs less to operate than installing mechanical mixers.

 

 

 

 

Award-Winning Innovation

 

“Aqua’s top priority is to deliver safe, reliable drinking water and wastewater services to our customers,” noted Aqua Virginia President John Aulbach. “These upgrades in Lake Monticello will strengthen our infrastructure, improve service, and help protect the environment.” 

 

At its 2019 Summit, the National Association for Water Companies awarded Aqua a Management Innovation award for this project completed at the Lake Monticello wastewater treatment plant. The award recognizes a utility that has implemented groundbreaking and industry-changing ideas. 

 

Aqua provides water and wastewater service to about 80,000 people in 37 counties across Virginia. 

 

Keep an eye on our blog to go behind the scenes of more of our infrastructure improvement projects throughout 2020!

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Removing Iron and Revamping Water Systems in New Jersey

 

 

 

If you live in or near Berkeley and Bayville, New Jersey, this one’s for you: Aqua New Jersey recently completed capital improvement projects on three all-new water treatment facilities to add iron removal processes that ensure safe and reliable water for the community.

To learn more about the nitty-gritty details of these infrastructure upgrades—and why they’re so important—we spoke with Aqua New Jersey Project Manager Michael Convery

What exactly did the project involve?

In a nutshell, the central purpose of the project was the addition of iron removal treatment processes at our existing Lifetime Well 4 and Pinewald Wells 3 & 5 sites. It also involved the creation of a brand-new well at the Sherman Well 6 site, also with—you guessed it—iron removal treatment. 

 

The projects at all three sites involved the construction of new treatment buildings and the replacement of all existing well pumps, variable frequency drives (VFDs), chemical pumps, and other treatment-related equipment. Plus, all three sites introduced backwash tanks, allowing the ability to recycle 85% of backwash water, and upgraded existing Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. 

Were all the project sites the same? 

Not quite—each site required its own unique dose of TLC. It was out with the old and in with the new at the Lifetime site, where crews retrofitted the old well treatment building with new equipment and constructed an additional treatment building for the iron removal filters with concrete masonry units (CMUs) and brick materials. 

Over at the Sherman site, crews drilled a new well and built a treatment building complete with all-new pumping and treatment equipment. This structure was constructed with CMUs and vinyl siding materials to blend in with the surrounding environment.

Finally, crews at the Pinewald site constructed a new iron removal treatment building made with CMUs and brick material for wells 3 & 5 following the demolition of the old treatment building. As an added bonus, all three sites now have GreensandPlus pressure filters for iron removal. (Trust us—in water provider language, that’s a huge plus!) 

What’s the big deal about removing iron from water?

At these plants, it’s essential to ensure the filters operate properly and backwash on the right parameters to achieve proper iron removal (and thus to achieve proper water quality). Luckily, there are controls in place at each location to make sure everything operates smoothly. 

According to Convery, the iron removal process involves using pressure filtration with manganese dioxide coated sand, which is known as GreensandPlus. “The system includes filter face piping with automatic valves and controls,” he adds. “The process involves air scouring capabilities to allow for efficient cleaning of filter media during backwashing.”

What happens next? 

Now that the intensive project is complete and Aqua New Jersey customers are benefiting from the upgraded facilities, Convery can look back fondly on the whole process. 

“The local operations group—especially Ron Suto, Mike Ricciardella, and Forrest Wolf—worked hard to keepthe system fully functional throughout the entire project,” he says. “It was a true team effort. Without all ofthe hard work of the New Jersey team and local operations, this project would not have been possible.”

Teams like these New Jersey employees are perfect examples of our commitment to the pursuit of excellence here at Aqua. Stay on the lookout for our next Aquastructure blog, where we’ll chronicle another chapter in our ongoing infrastructure improvement story!

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Breaking Down the 2019 Backhoe Challenge

 

Our team at Aqua has provided safe, reliable water service for our customers across the country for more than 130 years, and it wouldn’t be possible without each and every one of our employees. That’s why every year we celebrate everyone from our engineers to our customer service representatives at our annual company picnic.

In 2016, we kicked things up a notch with our now-famous Backhoe Challenge, and we continued the tradition this year on September 19 in Newtown Square.

So, what’s the backhoe challenge anyway? Let’s start from the beginning: It was designed by construction equipment vendor John Deere, and this year, it was coordinated by our very own Southern Maintenance Manager Paul Alberici and Field Supervisor Larry Weaver.

This challenge requires major skills and focus. While the competition is just for fun, the talent on display shows the finess and precision our team uses when they excavate streets to access and replace broken mains and other buried infrastructure.

Round 1: Balancing Balls

The first event in the Backhoe Challenge requires tons of precision and patience. In this challenge, operators remove 10-inch bouncy balls from the top of a traffic cone and place them in a small bucket.

The team then returns the bucket to the starting board, but if any mistakes are made, they have to start all over again. The pressure was high, but our Aqua team is made for this kind of thing. On to the next task!

Round 2: The egg challenge

 The second event requires operators to pick up an egg from a sand mound and place it on a tiny bale of hay. Though that doesn’t sound too complicated, try doing it using a tablespoon attached to a backhoe bucket! If the egg doesn’t stay intact, it’s back to the beginning. Needless to say, this challenge is always a bit of a nail-biter.

 

Round 3: The wine pour

That’s right—operators get to play bartender in the last challenge! This event asks teams to fill three wine glasses from a bottle hooked to the teeth of the backhoe in the fastest time, but naturally, pouring a glass of wine is a lot harder in this situation.

Now it's trophy time...

 

The first place winner of the 2019 Aqua Backhoe Challenge was Rob Delio, leader of our Springfield maintenance team, with an astounding collective time of 2:26 for all three events. Congratulations, Rob!

In second and third place, respectively, were Jesse Batyko, leader of our Great Valley maintenance team (3:06) and Dennis Wiley, foreman of our Willow Grove maintenance team (5:01). We’re proud of all of our operators and their ability to have fun and prove their skills with some friendly competition.

Our maintenance employees serve an integral role within our larger team—it’s safe to say they’re a vital part of our Aquastructure. All competition aside, each and every member of our team is a winner in our book!

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Meet the water quality hotshots known as Aqua’s Hot Spot team

 

L-R: Treatment Manager Dave Rustay; Plant Supervisor Kyle McCullough; Technical Services Specialist Ryan Evans; Project Engineer I Tom Klein; Environmental Compliance Specialist III Carolyn Hathaway Manager, Control Center Operations Jim McGinley; Director, Water Quality Chuck Hertz; and Vice President, Planning and Engineering Joe Thurwanger.

With a water system as large and complex as our Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) operation, teamwork is a necessity in order to ensure that all processes run smoothly. One way that we exercise this collaborative spirit at Aqua is through our Hot Spot Program, launched in 2014 as a cross-divisional effort to identify potential “hot spots,” or issues in water quality, before they occur. 

While every task we perform is a team effort, this project captures the essence of our service-centered mission particularly well. In honor of National Water Quality Month, we asked Environmental Compliance Specialist III Carolyn Hathaway to discuss the benefits and collaborative nature of the Hot Spot Program with us.

Environmental Compliance Specialist III Carolyn Hathaway leads Pennsylvania's Hot Spot team,
which is made up of nearly 20 employees from a cross-section of specialties throughout the organization. 

What is the Hot Spot Program?

As you’ve learned by now, the Hot Spot Program’s goal is to proactively address water quality issues in our SEPA service area. According to Hathaway, the Hot Spot team is “made up of representatives from different areas of expertise, from distribution and treatment to design and analysis” who “seek and identify potential water quality problems and develop solutions before real issues develop." 

In their monthly meetings, the team discusses items like data, water quality in the distribution system and tanks, and flushing. Since Aqua’s SEPA service area contains one of the largest integrated water systems in the country, the team is always seeking ways to improve processes. 

What makes it so collaborative?

At Aqua, we’ve found that the most effective improvements come from encouraging team members to cross departmental lines to brainstorm together, leveraging the strength of their combined experience and expertise. This close collaboration results in innovative solutions that are tailor-made to resolve complex issues more quickly and efficiently. 

For Hot Spot team members, working alongside colleagues from different areas of the company is gratifying. “This team is willing to challenge each other in a respectful way to better understand the data and opportunities for system improvement,” Hathaway says. In turn, this collaboration allows us to better serve our customers and protect water quality in the SEPA service area.

The Hot Spot team meets monthly to proactively search for and identify conditions that could
potentially impact water quality and address them before they become problematic.

What’s in it for customers?

As a result of the Hot Spot Program, SEPA has had significantly fewer water quality issues, particularly low-chlorine events, than before the program started. One notable challenge came during the summer of 2018 when several months of unusual weather created an issue that needed the Hot Spot team's attention. Thanks to the team’s diverse perspectives, they were able to analyze the data and make proactive adjustments to maintain service during disruptive conditions. 

Following the success of the program in SEPA, the Hot Spot team is examining ways to share their findings with colleagues across Aqua, including the possibility of developing similar programs in other areas of the company. We’re confident that fostering this collaboration will yield more accessible solutions to water quality issues for customers nationwide. 

Whether we’re working in Pennsylvania or in any of the eight states we serve, we’re dedicated to providing safe, reliable water to all of our customers. We’re grateful to our Hot Spot team for helping us uphold our core values of integrity, respect, and the pursuit of excellence in everything we do. 

 

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