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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Bringing e-Billing Ease to Aqua

As the decade comes to a close, we can’t help but look back and reflect on all of the growth of the company and the new services and projects we’ve introduced to our customers over the past 10 years.

Speaking of new services, did you know that we have multiple new e-Billing features that make it easier than ever to pay your water bill? To learn even more, we spoke with Manager of Collections, Billing, and Cash Applications Jack Farnsworth to get the details of four newly improved features and how they benefit Aqua customers across all eight of the states we serve.

Payment arrangement

We’re pleased to say that our payment arrangement feature is now active in all Aqua states. Payment arrangements are available to any Aqua customer who has fallen behind on their payments, and the feature allows customers to take the past due months and stretch them out for several months until they are caught up.

“The invoices were modified to clearly provide the monthly installment, the number of payments remaining and the total balance of the payment arrangement,” Farnsworth added. “At Aqua, we listen and value our customers—this change came directly from customer feedback. We’re glad that these new invoices help customers better understand their payment arrangements for a stress-free experience.”

Text reminders

Constantly worried about missing a payment? Never fear! Aqua has partnered with Speedpay to give our customers the option to receive text reminders to easily avoid late charges. The text feature sends a message five days before the payment is due, the day it is due, and five days after.

The text reminders also provide a hyperlink that customers can click through to make their payments. Head here to become one of the 14,000 and counting Aqua customers utilizing this convenient text option! 

Daily account balance

You asked, we listened. Our call centers have received a large volume of customers asking for their current account balance over the years, so Aqua decided to make it even easier to check your bill. Simply log onto the Aqua WaterSmart website to view your daily balance. Easy peasy!

One-time payment availability

Previously, only Aqua customers enrolled in e-Billing were able to make a one-time payment via the WaterSmart website. Now, all customers can use this feature to pay bills electronically as many times as they please. We’ve seen an increase in customers utilizing this feature in 2019, and we hope to continue this growth through 2020. 

“Everything proposed, achieved, or rejected is for a better customer experience,” Farnsworth said of all these e-Billing improvements. “These features were all created to provide our customers with more information, faster information, and ease of payment.”

“I am very excited about all the customer enhancements we have implemented this year,” said Georgetta Parisi-Knup, vice president, customer operations. “Offering our customers a wide range of options across multiple platforms is important as we continue to focus on improving our customers’ experience with Aqua.” 

Our customers are always our priority, and we hope these efficient new features make life just a little bit easier. Cheers to a great 2019 and an even better 2020!

 

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How much water is in your favorite Thanksgiving foods?

Water is all around us—even on Thanksgiving! Before the big meal, take a second to learn about how much water is in all of your favorite dishes.

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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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Inside the Witch’s Cauldron: The Science of Dry Ice

It’s the season for all things spooky and scary! From witches and warlocks to jack o'lanterns and sweet treats, there’s so much wonder to behold during the Halloween season.

Looking for a fun activity to get in the festive spirit? With a few simple ingredients, you can make your very own witch’s cauldron for decoration. All you’ll need is some dry ice—and water, of course!

How can ice be dry?

At Aqua, we’re always fascinated (but never surprised) by water’s versatility and the ways that it can teach us new lessons about the world around us. Though there’s nothing spooky about water, it’s a key ingredient in a DIY witch’s cauldron that’s sure to wow trick or treaters.

The other key ingredient is dry ice, which is exactly what it sounds like: ice without water. That may be hard to imagine, but it’s possible because of carbon dioxide.

Believe it or not, dry ice is colder than ice made with frozen water. Essentially, dry ice is carbon dioxide (with no moisture or air) that’s frozen at -109.3°F, while regular ice freezes at 32°F. So what happens if water and dry ice meet? Let’s just say things can get spooky.

When the dry ice meets water, it immediately undergoes sublimation, which means it changes from a solid to a gas without ever becoming a liquid. The best part of it all? Water is a catalyst that helps to create this phenomenon!

How to make a DIY witch's cauldron

First and foremost, you’ll need the main ingredient: dry ice. If you aren’t sure where to buy it, call your local grocery store to see if they carry it. If not, search online for a supplier near you.

Next, look for a cauldron at a Halloween store, or use a large cooking pot from your kitchen. Even if it doesn’t look exactly like a witch’s cauldron, your bubbling potions will still look festive.

Fill the cauldron about halfway with hot water and a dash of dish soap, which will help to give you bubbles. Then, using tongs, place small chunks of dry ice into your soapy water mixture and watch as the kettle starts to gurgle and bubble. Remember to handle the dry ice with care—due to its negative temperature, touching it with bare hands can give you frostbite.

To keep the potion going, add more hot water when needed, and enjoy watching this fascinating scientific reaction unfold.

Happy Halloween!

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