Digging Deep into Groundwater Treatment

Welcome back to Aquastructure, our year-long blog series where we help you, loyal water user, become a real-life expert on all things H2O. We’re going behind the scenes of Aqua’s daily operations to break down all the complicated systems that work together to bring you clean, refreshing water each and every day.

Last month, we learned all about surface water and the treatment process that goes into making water from lakes, rivers and reservoirs clean and crisp. This month, we’ll tackle groundwater and learn a bit about how that water becomes something we actually can put into our bodies.

We turned to Alissa Vanim, manager of environmental compliance at Aqua New Jersey and Joe Mingle, director of operations at Aqua New Jersey, to get the 411 on groundwater treatment.

So what makes groundwater special?

Let’s start with the most obvious fact: groundwater comes from—drum roll, please—the ground. Deep within the earth, there are underground wells that collect buckets beyond buckets of water from aquifers, which are layers of rock and soil that transmit water. Those aquifers contain water from a mix of natural sources, such as precipitation (like rain or snow) and nearby rivers and streams.

But that well water isn’t as drinkable as we’d like—it’s been hanging out in the dark hundreds of feet below the ground, after all.  

Okay, but how does the groundwater leave the ground?

After a while, those wells fill up, and it’s time for all that groundwater to see the light of day. So off it goes to a treatment plant, where the water undergoes various treatment processes depending on its quality. This may include a bit of the ion-exchange process. The ion-exchange process sounds super complicated, but it’s really just a mix of positively and negatively charged ions doing some black magic to remove contaminants such as nitrate, fluoride, sulfate and arsenic.

Is that all?

Of course not—that’d be too easy. There are also activated-carbon contactors that absorb other chemicals that don’t belong in our drinking water. This improves the taste of the water and removes odors as well.

Sometimes nuisance metals, like iron or manganese, seep into the water, so that’s where sequestration comes in. This process makes sure the water isn’t discolored or metallic.

Lastly, there’s aeration, which raises the pH levels and removes CO2 gases from the groundwater. All in all, this pre-treatment process is just a necessary step we have to take to remove a ton of harmful pollutants from our water. 

Is the next stop chlorination?

Back in the day, waterborne diseases wreaked havoc on society. But thanks to chlorination, all those harmful bacteria and viruses (think: salmonella, E-Coli, Coliform, Legionella and fecal coliform) get destroyed so we can go on living happy, healthy, hydrated lives.

Once all that water has been chlorinated, it moves on to post-treatment. Here, green sand filters pull out any additional iron manganese and hydrogen sulfide to achieve optimal water quality. Finally, post-treatment chlorination is added as the last process before delivery.

Can I get the water now?

Now that the water is clean, it’s time to send it off to you, the water customers of the world. If the water is not immediately needed, it is transported into large, elevated storage tanks. From there, all that safe, drinkable water gets distributed to you via underground pipes so that you can drink it, cook with it, wash with it or flush it away to your heart’s desire.

Ta-da! That’s all for groundwater treatment, folks. Join us next month, where we’ll provide all of the (dirty) details on wastewater. 

Share This Post:

Winter is Freezing—But Your Pipes Don’t Have to Be

As we all know, winter is here, and that means it’s cold outside. While you can keep yourself warm by throwing on another jacket or blanket, it’s important to remember that your pipes don’t have the same option. The water inside them can freeze and expand, causing major problems throughout the winter season.

Want to avoid that nightmare? We want to help you do so. We’ve recruited the help of our old friends Fred Wags and Felicia Fluff to help teach you the steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes.  

Step One: Thaw

If your pipes are starting to freeze, follow Fred’s lead and grab a hair dryer. Hold it about six inches away from the frozen area of the pipe, and move it back and forth to thaw out the pipes and get your water flowing again.

Step Two: Insulate 

Fred and Felicia are keeping warm, but that’s because they have fur. Pipes don’t have jackets or fur, so insulation is the next best thing! If you’re unsure about how to insulate your pipes, check out this video by the U.S. Department of Energy. Make sure you follow the step-by-step instructions to insulate the pipes in the cold areas of your house so you don’t have to worry about breaking out the hair dryer again.

Step Three: Open Doors

While we aren’t telling you to keep any major entry or exit points open, there are a few doors in your house that should stay ajar this winter season. Any cabinet doors underneath a sink should be left open to allow hot air to flow in and warm up the pipes. Just make sure Fred and Felicia don’t get their paws on anything they shouldn’t!

Step Four: Remove Hoses

Before it gets too cold, make sure to go outside and pack your hoses away for the winter. It sounds simple, but this quick action will keep hoses from getting exposed to the elements, freezing or getting damaged over the winter months.

Step Five: Keep Water Running

Felicia and Fred are thirsty little creatures, and if you want to keep them hydrated, listen up. Make sure to keep the water source furthest away from your heater running with a small stream if the temperature outside gets below 10 degrees. Moving water doesn’t freeze, so this trick will ensure that your pipes don’t, either.

Step Six: Eliminate Drafts 

If you want to keep Fred, Felicia and your pipes warm, it’s important to eliminate any drafts you have coming into your house. Your pets will be happier, and you will be too. If you’re not quite sure how to fix drafts, this guide from This Old House should send you in the right direction.

Thanks for taking the time to learn about ways to prevent your pipes from freezing this winter season. Fred and Felicia are feeling confident the pipes won't freeze this winter, and you should too.

Stay warm, and stay safe!

Share This Post:

What Are Toilets Called Around The World?

Share This Post:

Decrease the grease with these easy tips

The holidays are quickly approaching, and in between traveling, cooking and decorating, you won’t want to worry about a clogged sink. That’s why Aqua is here to help you keep any and all grease monsters out of your home.

Follow these easy tips to prevent fat, oil and grease from blocking your drains and pipes.

Be informed

First, it’s important to know what types of food can cause clogged sinks. Here are some of the most common culprits:

● Butter

● Cooking oil

● Lard (shortening)

● Meats

● Greasy sauces

 

Consider the consequences

A clogged sink may not seem like a big inconvenience, because all it does is flood your sink—right? Wrong. Blocked pipes can cause serious damage to your home, community and wallet.

● Clogged pipes can become a health hazard by spreading bacteria that leads to various illnesses and unsanitary water.

● Clogged pipes can also cause an overflow of sewage, which is both gross and expensive. Sewage overflow can affect streets, yards and parks, and it can also lead to higher costs for local wastewater utilities.         

● Aside from all of that damage, clogged pipes can also pollute nearby groundwater, which harms both homes and the environment.

 

Practice smart cleaning habits

You don’t have to cut foods containing fat, oil and grease out of your diet to avoid issues, simply make these small adjustments to your cleaning habits in order to keep your sinks grease-free.

● Pour grease into a metal can rather than down the sink. It will change from liquid to semi-solid in form, and at that point, just toss the can into your trash bin.

● Keep strainers in your sink drains to catch small pieces of food and globs of grease. When you finish cooking and cleaning, empty the strainer into your trash bin.

● Don’t rely on a garbage disposal to keep your drain clog-free—they can’t keep grease out of your plumbing system.

● Throw away baby wipes, “flushable” wipes and other sanitary items that can get stuck in your pipes.

 

Invest in extra help for your business

Businesses often see higher traffic than private homes, which can mean more grease and bigger consequences. If you’re a business owner, consider installing vented grease traps that are designed to handle appropriate amounts of grease. Grease traps should be cleaned, maintained and serviced on a regular basis to ensure they work properly.

Don’t let fear of a clogged drain ruin your holiday fun. With these tips, you’ll be sure to kick out the grease monsters long before they can even make an appearance.

Keep checking back here for holiday water-smart tips from Aqua!

Share This Post:

Building a culture of inclusion at Aqua

By Aqua Talent Acquisition and Diversity Lead Satnaree Brandon

“Excuse me, miss, do you work at Aqua?” said a voice breaking me from the trance of my iPhone while commuting on the regional rail one morning.

“Yes, I do. Can I help you?” I asked, unsure if I was about to speak to a customer.

“You spoke to my son at a job fair two months ago. I can’t express how much it meant to me that you spent time with him asking him questions about his resume, coaching and engaging him in conversation,” she said

I braced myself for a long conversation with a doting mother, then I quickly remembered speaking with the woman and her son, who happened to be visually impaired, two months before. I handed them both my business card, which includes braille text, and encouraged her son to follow up with me if he was interested in applying for a job.

As the diversity lead at Aqua America, part of my job is to help pave our way as an employer of choice that values diversity and inclusion in the utility industry, which is not necessarily known for this. Speaking to a person who is visually impaired at a job fair might not seem significant, but I had conveyed to this young man and his mother that Aqua is a welcoming place to work, we are inclusive, and we place great value on you as an individual.

In traditional terms, growing a diverse workforce means that Aqua seeks to hire and promote a variety of people, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender or gender identification, sexual orientation, age, background or ability. But beyond building a diverse company, Aqua is looking to be an inclusive company, with a supportive and respectful environment where all employees can achieve their full potential.

Regardless of color or creed, it is human nature to seek out an inclusive workplace. Fair treatment, equal access to opportunity and feeling welcomed as a teammate who belongs there help to build a happy and engaged group of employees. When we talk about inclusion, we are talking about how we make the mix of differences come together and have meaning, with the ultimate goal to provide everyone a seat at the table.

Aqua understands that building a culture of inclusion requires representation of diversity at all levels of the organization, and Aqua’s approach has been to build this from the top down. While 20 percent of our leadership at the vice president level and above is female, which is uncommon for our industry, we are also working to ensure a similar collection of diverse outlooks throughout the rest of the company.

But our goals extend beyond making sure we hire women, veterans, minorities, or any other specific group. It’s about transforming Aqua’s recruitment and retention strategy to ensure that we recruit, train, retain and promote engaged, passionate employees who will flourish.  In taking initial steps to realize this vision, Aqua is exploring partnerships with diversity organizations to build a talent pipeline specific to diversity. We’re also actively participating in career forums, attending young professional networking events, partnering with veterans coalitions to engage, hire and support transitioning veterans to civilian life, and encouraging mentor relationships with the senior leadership team.

   

While I’m at the beginning of my tenure with Aqua – only nine months in this role – I am encouraged by senior leadership’s belief that diversity and inclusion is an essential aspect of our company’s culture as we continue to grow. I always say that if you build an inclusive culture they will come, and I look forward to updating you in the coming months on the progress we’re making to transform our company. 

 

 

 

Share This Post: