Tree Planting with Aqua at the Perkiomen Creek Watershed

Here at Aqua, we take pride in coming together with local conservationists and residents to improve water quality in an eco-friendly way.

 

 That’s why on Friday, Oct. 7, several Aqua employees, along with dozens of volunteers, showed up to plant native trees at the Perkiomen Creek Watershed, adjacent to our Green Lane reservoir. Aqua’s Watershed Specialist Robert Kahley, Chief Environmental Officer Chris Crockett, Manager - Water Resources Engineering Tony Fernandes, and Director of Environmental Compliance Deborah Watkins, were among the green-thumbed volunteers protecting our local water ecosystems through environmental stewardship.

 

 

In less than two hours, the volunteers planted 120 new trees, and by the end of the day, the number was up to an impressive 620. Think about it — that’s 620 new native trees, releasing fresh oxygen into the air that wasn’t there before. The trees may be short in height now, but their positive impact on the environment is nothing close to small.

Join us in thanking our stellar Aqua employees for their continued hard work, both for our customers and the world around us.  

 

 To learn more, visit: http://bit.ly/2e2Tw4d

 

 

 

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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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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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Drink Up: Here’s to Spring!

After a long winter of snow, sleet, rain and polar vortexes, we bid adieu to the winter of 2013-14 by raising a glass of iced cold tap water during Drinking Water Week. The winter weather wreaked havoc on much of the country and did a number on water mains across the country too. But thanks to Aqua’s commitment to infrastructure renewal and putting miles of new water mains in the ground, we’ve had fewer main breaks than in the past thanks. Get a taste of what it was like on the front lines with a breakdown of Aqua’s fight against winter weather in Southeastern PA: 

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Driving Sustainability: How Compressed Natural Gas Can Fuel a Cleaner Future

I believe our commitment to sustainability is critical across all sectors. We can all help build the foundation for a sustainable future.

- Nicholas DeBenedictis, Chairman, President and CEO of Aqua America in a commentary titled “Driving Sustainability: How Compressed Natural Gas Can Fuel a Cleaner Future published* in the spring issue of Energy & Infrastructure magazine 

Companies all across America are evaluating how to reduce their environmental impact as it becomes clearer that we all need to take action to protect our environment for future generations. For some, this might mean using recycled materials for packaging, developing safer materials, using alternative fuel sources or streamlining operations to reduce waste. Private utilities, such as water companies, are no exception.

Water and energy share a close relationship – every process of the water system requires energy from initial treatment, delivery through pipes, the transportation of resources, and service representatives to keep systems up-to-date and address problems. Weighing in at eight pounds per gallon, keeping America’s water systems flowing is no small feat.

At Aqua America, we are pursuing different avenues to do our part. For instance, we are investing in vehicles for our fleet that will run on clean-burning compressed natural gas(CNG). CNG fuel can replace gasoline and diesel fuel and produces less undesirable air emissions when used. It is safer than other fuels in the event of a spill, because natural gas is lighter than air and dispenses quickly when released. 

Supplementing the environmental benefits, CNG is credited with creating more than 88,000 jobs in Pennsylvania to date, enhancing air quality and lowering energy costs, all while generating more than $389 million in state and local tax revenue.

At Aqua, we led the charge to utilize this resource nearly two decades ago. Aqua purchased its first bi-fuel pick-up truck in 1997. Today, we continue to add new vehicles to our fleet and plan to have a full fleet of CNG-fueled vehicles within the next five years.

To prepare for our upcoming transition to a full CNG fleet, we built a time-fill station at Aqua’s Springfield, Pa., operations center last year and we are working to install time-fill in four additional nearby operations centers. You can learn more about how natural gas vehicles operate here.

We also announced last week the receipt of a $225,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Act 13 fund. The grant will fund the purchase of nine dump trucks that run off of CNG to add to our growing alternative energy fleet. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett awarded the grant as a part of $7.7 million in total funding given to 25 companies and organizations in the state for natural gas vehicle conversion.

In 2013, Aqua received an Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) of $86,812 from the DEP for the purchase of 14 new CNG-fueled vans. Aqua also received two grants for approximately $70,000 for infrastructure and plans to install private fueling stations at its West Chester and Willow Grove Operations Centers. To date, we have invested $675,000 in CNG through vehicle purchases and infrastructure upgrades, including the construction of slow-fill fueling stations.

Our new CNG vans will be used to serve water customers in the inspection of pipeline restoration. So if you see us driving around, give us a honk or a wave!

* Access the full commentary from Nick DeBenedictis in the Spring Issue of Energy & Infrastructure magazine

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