Get To Know Aqua: Engineer Derek Sutton

Carmel’s internationally famous roundabouts are helping Derek and Petra Sutton feel at home in Indiana. They are daily reminders of the couple’s life in Sweden. 

The Suttons recently moved from Stockholm to Carmel after Derek signed on as the statewide engineer for Aqua Indiana, owner and operator of both public drinking water and wastewater systems in several Hoosier communities.   

“We moved back to the Indianapolis area to be close to my family,” Sutton explains. “Carmel felt like the best fit for us due to our passion for enjoying the outdoors. Carmel has done a great job of building biking and walking trails similar to those in Europe and around Stockholm. You feel more comfortable being out when there is separation from the heavy traffic here in Indiana.”

Derek had already established his career in water systems engineering when a chance meeting changed his future. While vacationing in Florida, he met Petra, a native of Finland, who was enjoying sunshine over the Christmas holiday. Love blossomed, adventure called, and Sutton found himself working as a consultant on water projects in Sweden.

Sweden, about the size of California, is home to 9.7 million people. Enjoying nature is more than just part of Swedish culture, it’s a right that Swedes take seriously. The Right of Public Access (Allemansrätten) means everyone is entitled to hike through forests and fields to pick berries and mushrooms without asking the landowner’s permission. Visitors have an obligation to respect the natural environment and private property.

Derek Sutton says this environmental ethos carries over to attitudes about water, which covers 9 percent of Sweden’s total landmass. “Swedes expect water to be pure and clean. They believe you should be able to drink from lakes or streams. Tap water is actually preferred over bottled water, which is hard to find.” 

Irrigated lawns are as rare in Sweden as traffic roundabouts are in most of Indiana – except Carmel. Sutton says he and Petra enjoy the roundabouts. “They are predominant in the suburbs of Stockholm.” His engineer’s brain appreciates the continuous traffic flow and the fact that roundabouts slow traffic to safer speeds. “We do miss Sweden’s public transportation. The bus, train, rail and subway system around Stockholm is awesome. You can live without a car there.”

Sutton says personal satisfaction from helping to improve Hoosier communities eased his relocation back to Indiana. “Working for Aqua as an engineer and project manager over infrastructure improvements is exactly what I find rewarding. If you’re interested in a career that provides a real sense that you are helping the community and serving in the best interest of the public, then a water-related career is a great option.”

The adjustment to Indiana’s culture for his Nordic wife has been eased by getting acquainted with Swedes who live in the Carmel area. They meet regularly and “There is even a Swedish school that meets on Sundays for the children to stay active in the language and culture. Most are Eli Lilly transplants here on working assignments.” The Suttons were surprised to meet a Finnish woman with a family connection who lives nearby. “Petra and this woman’s husband are distant relatives and from neighboring villages in Finland. They were both able to find one another in genealogy records.”

A trip to the supermarket or restaurants is another opportunity for contrasting cultures. In Sweden, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and caviar are commonly sold in tubes. And at restaurants, Sutton says, “Swedish food has more fish than the typical Hoosier menu. But the best part of the Swedish cuisine is the diversity available from the immigrants that call Sweden home. There is Thai, Lebanese, Greek, Balkan and many others available that are so good. I did miss Mexican, though. Indiana has better Mexican.”

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Thank You, Aqua Employees!

 

You turn on the faucet and water comes out. Sounds easy, right?

As easy as it seems, there is more that goes into getting that drinkable water from a fresh and natural source into your home - lots of pipes, water towers, reservoirs, and advanced water technology.

But it is more than technology and infrastructure; thousands of people across the country build their entire careers ensuring we all have water. These people, whether they are in the field, in the lab or behind the phones, spend their days making sure you can take a shower, cook your food, or spend time in the pool with your kids. A large labor force of talented men and women are working tirelessly, on weekends and late at night, to ensure that you have clean water for every day use.

With that in mind, the entire team at Aqua wants to send a deep thank you to all employees in our eight service states. Thank you for delivering unparalleled service even through long hours, plenty of service requests, and often-unpredictable weather conditions. Our company is strongly supported by a first-class family of staff that ensures Aqua customers can depend on quality when they turn the tap. As we celebrate Labor Day with a hot dog, family and friends; lets raise our glass (of water) and toast these unseen water bearers. Thank you for your service, labor, and loyalty.

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Aqua is Hooked on Veterans

We’re Hooked on Our Veterans

Aqua proudly supports our country’s military servicemen and women and the Wounded Warrior Project. As corporate sponsor of Virginia’s Caroline County chapter’s bass fishing tournament on April 26, Aqua combined our appreciation of our veterans with our love of water for a day of companionship, relaxation and fun.

 

A half-dozen Aqua employees joined wounded warriors at the Mount Olympus Berry Farm in Ruther Glen, Virginia, to cast their lines and reel in a good catch – or at least a good story about the one that got away!

 

According to the Caroline Progress, the top catches included a 22-inch bass and a 32-inch, 17-pound catfish that even surprised the pond owners. 

The Wounded Warrior Project is a national program that supports 50,000 warriors and nearly 7,000 family members through 20 programs and services.

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40,000 Trees And Counting

Whether it’s planting trees, sampling aquatic organisms with high school students, helping a watershed association with their stream clean-ups, or speaking with community groups – Aqua’s environmental affairs team takes every opportunity to enlist other watershed stakeholders as advocates for the stream.

The watershed in Southeast Pennsylvania is hundreds of square miles that drain into Aqua’s raw-water sources. There are nine rivers and streams monitored and protected by a team of Aqua’s environmental specialists. Robert Kahley and Craig Marleton are on call 24/7 and must react quickly to identify any potential dangers to our water supply.

Reacting quickly to prevent pollutants – like fuel and chemical spills – from entering Aqua’s water-system intake has both obvious and immediate benefits, but the environmental affairs team considers their proactive efforts an equally important investment in the long-term protection of our water supply.

 

For example, over the last decade, Aqua’s TreeVitalize Watersheds initiative has recruited volunteers to plant 40,000 trees and shrubs in hundreds of areas along stream banks in the Delaware Valley.  As they grow along the banks of drinking-water sources, trees naturally offer several layers of protection from contaminants. Recently, the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society presented the Binney Award to Aqua for TreeVitalize at the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show. The award, named for the first president of the society, is given to a company that exemplifies environmental stewardship, a tenet of PHS’s mission.

The Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy has been receiving TreeVitalize grants for many years, and they have become the core of our fall restoration projects,” explains Conservation Coordinator for Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy Krista Scheirer. “These projects not only lead to better water and habitat quality; they help educate thousands of our volunteers and local residents on protecting our watershed, which has an even greater impact.”

Despite the success of TreeVitalize, Tony Fernandes, who manages the environmental affairs team, explains that protecting the watershed is a long-term process. “Any stream-bank repair project we complete fixes only a tiny fraction of the total stream length.  It would be impossible to measure the benefit of repairing a 500-foot stretch of steam bank along a 25-mile-long stream, and it will take many years for the 5,000 trees we plant this year to become large enough to form a mature canopy and provide the full storm-water filtering capacity, nutrient uptake, temperature control, and erosion protection to the stream.”

There are powerful long-term benefits to doing all these proactive efforts. After all, Aqua has delivered high-quality water to our customers for more than 125-years, a legacy we plan to protect and enhance for the future.  

 

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The Groundwork for a Better Tomorrow

When Aqua says we’re laying the groundwork for a better tomorrow, we’re usually talking about building the pipes, treatment plants, and other infrastructure that clean and deliver drinking water to families — and carry away and clean up their wastewater. 

Of course, before a family can turn on the tap, they need a home. Aqua’s Austin-based Brent Reeh and Troy Bolin joined about a dozen or so volunteers with Habitat for Humanity on Feb. 1 to help build a new home for a family in North Woodcreek in the Texas Hill Country. Reeh and Bolin spent the day mostly painting the interior of the house.

Whether we’re laying pipe or rolling a second coat of paint, we’re proud to build a better tomorrow for the communities we serve.

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