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.

 

Share This Post:

Bill Wills: Soaring to New Heights

Bill Wills received flight lessons as a birthday present from his wife in 2006. From then on, learning how to fly an airplane became his goal, and he reached it in 2007, when he earned his pilot’s license.

To get there, he studied for more than 60 hours, had guided flight lessons and passed a final test. A key step was showing that he could smoothly lift off and land his pane on the runway alone.

“The first thing you have to learn is to do things in small increments,” he said.­­­­­

After his first solo flight, his flight instructor ceremoniously cut his T-shirt with scissors, which is a tradition among pilots. 

Cutting a student’s shirt after his or her first solo flight symbolizes their growth as a pilot – and the fact that they no longer need an instructor yanking on their shirt and shouting instructions from the back seat.The practice dates back to the days of aviation before radio systems, according to pilot and aviation writer Rod Machado. Flight instructors would sit behind their students and get their attention by yanking their T-shirts.

Wills owns his own single-engine aircraft now: a 1946, American-manufactured Cessna 140. Cessna produced approx 10,000 of the 140s after World War II, with only about 2,000 still flying today.

Wills houses his Cessna 140 at a hangar in Kennett Square, Pa., close to where he lives. It takes him 30 minutes to fly to Ocean City, N.J., high above the bottleneck traffic. And from there, it’s a five-block walk to the beach. He also enjoys flying to Myrtle Beach and the Chesapeake Bay.

“There’s nothing like waking up at five in the morning, driving out when there’s no traffic, and flying,” he said.

Wills flies to plane-enthusiast events and wants to one-day fly to Europe to attend gatherings for Cessna owners. “I just like the freedom, the challenges, and the people you meet,” Wills said of going to these events.

“I want to expand myself, become a better person and experience things firsthand,” Wills said. “Life experiences make you the person you are.”’

---

Wills joined Aqua in April 2011 and is the Information Technology  Director of Business System Support. He previously worked for 17 years as a senior manager for information services and marketing at Wawa, a chain of convenience stores. Wawa and Aqua are similar Wills said, in that they are both people-oriented businesses and leaders in their respective industries.

Wills has a PMP certification and master’s certificate from George Washington University and a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Widener University. Midway through his career at Wawa, he began to manage the company’s marketing and branding. Providing both technological support and marketing strategy taught him how those two business components could be merged.

“To be successful in any organization you have to communicate well build strong relationships and get a full understanding of the business,’ he said.

More Information:

Cessna Pilots Society 

Wawa Markets

Rod Machado’s Aviation Blog

Share This Post:

Aqua's Youngest Customer Calls For Help

When four-year-old Marcus in Palmyra, Virginia, accidentally flushed a coin down the toilet, he knew exactly who could help. Since Aqua runs the wastewater plant that serves his neighborhood, Marcus dictated a letter to his Mom asking us to please find the coin — he thinks it was a dime — and send it back to him. Marcus described the money for us (small and silver) and told us that if we happened to find two coins, we could give the second one to his friend, whose money had also gone missing.

 

While this dilemma was a little outside our scope of work, Aqua Virginia President Shannon Becker understands that we don’t just serve houses, we serve families, and Marcus was counting on us to fix a problem. Without getting into the complexities of sewer treatment systems, Shannon decided the original coins weren’t just hard to find, but also likely no longer desirable! That’s why Shannon dropped by to visit Marcus and his family on Monday, Oct. 14 to personally deliver two silver dollars — one for Marcus and one for his friend.

 Marcus and his family appreciated the visit, but Shannon might have enjoyed it most. “I think Marcus was amazed that his dime somehow turned into a silver dollar, although I made it pretty clear that this is not how to make your money grow,” said Shannon. “Aqua delivers a critical service that families depend on, and if they have a problem that we can help solve, they can depend on us to try to fix it.”

 

Marcus knows he can take that promise to the bank.

Share This Post:

Challenge Accepted: Aqua's Tough Mudders

Billed as “Ironman meets Burning Man,” Tough Mudder challenges, which are held throughout the world, are not just mud races. Rather, they are 10- to 12-mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces “to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie.” 

The desire to challenge oneself personally — on so many levels — is exactly what drew Aqua employees to the Tough Mudder challenge. Chris Luning, senior vice president and general counsel  for Aqua America, was one of the first at Aqua to take on the Tough Mudder. 

After completing his first challenge two years ago, he encouraged two colleagues at Aqua to sign up for a Tough Mudder. His persistence became the catalyst in turning Tom Rafferty, director of corporate development at AquaCapital Ventures , into a fellow Tough Mudder.

Luning’s example also paved the way for Fred Martino, senior associate of investor relations at Aqua America, to become a Tough Mudder. “Luning convinced me basically to get involved in mud runs and trail running and these military-style obstacle courses,” Martino said. 

While Luning, Rafferty and Martino were gearing up for Tough Mudder, they didn’t realize another Aqua employee was also training for the event. It wasn’t until just a few days before that they found out, by chance, that Joseph McBride, director of IT communications and call center technology for Aqua America, was a fellow Mudder.

All their training helped prepare the Aqua Mudders for the obstacles they faced the day of the challenge. Some actually emerged as favorites. For instance, the “Walk the Plank” obstacle, which involves jumping off a plank into a freezing-cold pond, was one of Luning’s favorites.

While making it through these obstacles was remarkable, McBride said the most amazing part of the whole event was the camaraderie. “Everybody checked on each other, even people you didn’t know,” he said. 

After a weekend spent on a Tough Mudder, these four Aqua employees had a lot to discuss back at the office on Monday morning. Co-workers also noticed the buzz surrounding the event.

Not only did colleagues look at the men in a new light, the men began to look at each other differently. Although Luning, Rafferty and Martino were friends before the challenge, they became closer afterwards.

 

Learn more about Tough Mudders

What is Tough Mudder?

Tough Mudders helps raise money for Wounded Warrior Project

 

 

Share This Post:

Sunny Outlook

It’s another sunny workday in southeastern Pennsylvania. Dave Marozzi logs on to the web-based monitoring system that tracks the performance of the new 1-megawatt photovoltaic power system at Aqua’s Ingram’s Mill Water Treatment Plant. Not a cloud is in the sky as Marozzi, superintendent of the Pickering and Ingram’s Mill plants, observes the graph that tracks the output of the solar field. As expected, the solar field started producing energy soon after sunrise. 

When performance peaks sometime between 1:30 and 2 p.m., the 3.8-acre solar field will be really humming, generating enough electricity to power the plant essentially for free.

“At peak performance, Ingram’s Mill consumes, on average, about 700 kilowatts of electricity,” Marozzi explains. “So for four to five hours a day, we are basically getting free power and selling the excess back to PECO Energy.”

The Ingram’s Mill solar field went into service in December 2009. “Since it came up to full power, it has been exceeding our expectations,” says Karl Kyriss, executive vice  president of Aqua America.

“The solar energy supplements our power demand at Ingram’s Mill, providing approximately 30 percent of the power required to operate the plant. That offsets $115,000 of expense at the anticipated yearly cost of electricity.”

Overall, the project made good economic sense. “The price of solar panels has come down, and the availability of grants and tax incentives made it a viable economic alternative to help us supplement our energy demand and to help us manage rising energy costs as we go forward,” Kyriss says.

In addition, the investment in solar energy pays annual “dividends” in the form of solar renewable energy credits (SRECs).

In 2011, utilities’ energy portfolios must contain at least 3.5 percent renewable energy. Those that do not meet their individual solar goals must make payments into a renewable energy fund at a rate of 200 percent of the market value of the SRECs.

On the plus side, owners of a facility such as the solar field at Ingram’s Mill receive one SREC for each 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity produced. These credits can be sold or traded to other companies that have not met their required goals through online trading sites such as the Flett Exchange.

For example, the solar field at Ingram’s Mill is anticipated to produce 1,280 SRECs in its first year of operation. At the current ‘spot’ market value of $325 per SREC, its total SREC value for the year is projected to be $416,000. 

 

For More Information:

Aqua Sustainability Report

 

Share This Post: