The First-Ever Backhoe Challenge

As Aqua America celebrates 130 years of providing high-quality water service, it’s a good time to acknowledge what keeps us going strong: the Aqua employees

From engineers to customer service representatives to support coordinators and beyond, there’s a great group of people behind the water delivered to millions of people every day. That’s why every summer, we spend time at our annual company picnic. 

This year marked something new; something Aqua employees had never seen before. It was the first ever Backhoe Challenge.

 

What do you think looks the most difficult about this picture? Picking up a two-ounce egg with a spoon, OR picking up that same egg with a spoon that is attached to a 17,000 pound, 24-inch backhoe bucket? If you thought it's the latter, you're probably right. Which is what made the Backhoe Challenge such a fun challenge for the Aqua team! 

This inaugural event occurred during our annual company picnic that took place this year on July 21 at the Springton Reservoir, about 40 minutes north of Philadelphia.

It was designed by construction equipment vendor John Deere, and coordinated by our very own director of fleet and supply chain management, Charlie Stevenson, manager of fleet maintenance and compliance, Silvio DeAngelo and manager of Great Valley operations, Mike Filli. 

The idea was to represent all three Southeastern Pennsylvania operating divisions by dividing teams into two. This was determined by each division’s individual competitions that were held a few weeks prior to the finals. The winners were chosen by whichever operators successfully completed the events in the least amount of time. It was definitely a competition worth watching!

There were three events in the competition. Each involved the backhoe in some way or another. 

 

Round 1: The Egg Challenge 

The first event was the egg challenge, as seen above. The objective was to use a tablespoon that was attached to one of the backhoe bucket teeth, on the right side of the operator’s perspective. The operator had to pick up the egg from a sand mound and transport it to a hay bale on the left side of backhoe without breaking the egg. If the egg was broken, they had to start all over again. 

Just wait because it gets even more challenging.

 

Round 2: Balancing Balls  

For the second event, operators were required to move at least three of six, 10-inch diameter balls from atop equally-spaced safety cones with stabilizing cups.

To make matters even more difficult, the cones were lined up on the right side of the operator and the balls had to be placed in a tub located on the left side of the operator. At the end, they were required to return the bucket to the starting board. If the challenge was not completed correctly, they were asked to start over and wait for the cones to be reset.

 

 

 

Round 3: Joining Cylinders 

For the third event of the challenge, operators were required to use a chain with an s-hook attached to the backhoe bucket. They had to hook a vertical cylinder, about the size of a soda can, and move it to a receiving cylinder, which was not much larger 

The vertical cylinder had to be placed at least two thirds of the way into the receiving cylinder. In order for the challenge to be complete, the operators had to disconnect the cylinder and take the empty backhoe bucket back to the starting board.

 

The event seemed to bring everyone together, creating an undeniable energy during the competition. Great Valley manager, Mike Fili, who assisted in constructing the courses, says “There was a great sense of competition and boasting from them in the weeks leading up to the competition. They were talking smack about how they were going to beat one another. They had a lot of fun.”

Silvio DeAngelo saysthat while those competing made it look easy, it was not, as some of the participants had not operated these machines (daily) in years

 

“Even with training, not everyone can operate a backhoe. It requires great hand-eye coordination as well as a great sense of touch. Operators have to watch closely what the bucket is doing, and be even more diligent when using pilot control,” says  DeAngelo.

 

 

And the Winner Is...

The overall winner was theEastern division maintenance crew leader, Joe Sciallis, who admitted the most difficult challenge was the chain and cylinder. He had the honor of taking the Backhoe Challenge trophy back to the division's Willow Grove office.

Vice president of network, Marc Lucca, jokes that the Willow Grove division manager, Rob McNamara, will “bring the trophy to the division managers’ meetings just so they are all reminded of the current Backhoe Challenge Champion.”

It is safe to say that the first-ever Backhoe Challenge was an incredible success! It will be back at next year’s picnic with new and exciting challenges so stay tuned.

 

Learn more about the people behind Aqua’s water service here.

 

 

 

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Aqua Cares About Bugs, and You Should Too

Why would a compliance guy at Aqua America care about bugs in the IllinoisKankakee River when most people try to avoid or kill bugs?

 

Kevin M. Culver of Aqua America

First off, I am not an entomologist (aka a bug expert) so why do I care about bugs? This is the first question I ask when conducting a source water presentation or manning our source water display booth at events.

Most of the responses I receive, depending on the age of the participant, are that:

·      Bugs are bad and need to be eliminated

·      Bugs are part of the food chain necessary to sustain life in the river

Both responses are somewhat correct but not exactly why I care. We do not want bugs in our drinking water but they are an important part of the food chain.

I care about the bugs because one can determine the health of a stream by the number and type of bugs living in the stream. Not only can the bugs be used to determine water quality, but fish and fresh water mussels can also be used as biological indicators of water quality.

 

Bugs And Your Water   

So what are macro-invertebrates (macros)? These include aquatic insect such as larvae, worms, leeches and snails that can be found under rocks, attached to plants and in the bottom sediments of rivers and streams.

Not all macros that are found indicate species of water quality. In fact, only 36 different groups of macros make up the specimens used to determine water quality.

 

The 36 Groups: What You Need to Know

As a citizen scientist through the River Watch program, I have been trained on techniques on how to properly collect and identify the water quality indicator of macro-invertebrates. 

I collect bugs at four assigned sites annually within the Kankakee watershed, located in the northeastern part of Illinois. The same sites are used each year to determine water quality at that instant and to trend this result against previous sampling events.

Each of the 36 indicator species is assigned a tolerance value (TV) to pollution between “0” being completely intolerant to pollution and “11” being highly tolerant to pollution.

The weighted average tolerance value of all the bugs collected at a site is the water quality indicator, officially known as the Macro-invertebrate Biological Index (MBI).

If a bug is intolerant to pollution, it means it hasn't acclimated to pollution, which mean the river is clean. If a bug is tolerant to pollution, it means the bug has indeed been exposed to pollution - so much so that its body has changed its reaction to pollution. 

So when Aqua tells everyone that the Kankakee River is one of the “cleanest” rivers in the Midwest, it's the bugs that prove it. The water quality in Rock Creek in the Kankakee State Park is one of the few sites in Illinois that are statistically getting cleaner, according to the bug results.

This year I also collected 849 bugs from my Kankakee River site that had the lowest ever average tolerance value (MBI) at 4.29.

 

Why Should You Care About the Bugs?  

Along with just being cool, they are an integral part of our source water protection plan. You can determine water quality by which bugs are present or absent and they are a great way to educate and demonstrate to young and old about the importance of source water protection.

 

 

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6 Ways to Hydrate Like an Olympian

Ever wonder how Olympic athletes stay hydrated? With the 2016 Summer Olympics underway, that question has been on our minds a lot. Sometimes we just want to know how many glasses of water it takes Michael Phelps to swim in peak condition. That’s why we decided to do a little digging to discover exactly how Olympic superstars like Phelps replenish their energy in order to take the home the gold.

Sweat it off

Olympic athletes need to drink before, during and after their training sessions and competitions. Sweating is the body’s way of controlling temperature, and athletes do a lot of it over the course of a day. Constant water breaks are a surefire way to recharge your system and keep you at peak performance. 

Don’t go for the gold

What exactly does healthy, hydrated urine look like? Mostly clear! The more water you drink, the more diluted your pee urine becomes. If your urine is darker in color and has a strong odor, then you’re definitely dehydrated. No worries, though: All you need to do to fix the problem is have a couple more glasses of water a day.

Burn, baby, burn

Consuming thousands of calories a day is a necessity for Olympians. They burn off most of what they eat while competing and then need to replenish themselves in order to keep up muscle mass. Drinking more water not only helps athletes stay refreshed, but it also improves digestion and reduces stomach pains. (That must be a nice bonus after eating all that food.)

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Glass half full

Athletes may give it 110 percent when racing, swimming or pole vaulting, but their bodies are only made up of about half that percentage in water. If an Olympian loses more than two percent of their weight in water, they will begin to lose their mental edge. Staying hydrated both prevents fatigue and keeps the mind and reflexes sharp for optimal Olympic performance.

Drink more than you think

One of the biggest misconceptions about hydration is that you only need to drink water when you physically feel thirsty. In reality it’s already too late. By drinking water (or other beverages with high water content) every so often you can prevent dehydration from sneaking up on you. This is especially important if you’re out in the sun for prolonged periods of time. Pro tip: By carrying a reusable water bottle with you at all times, you’ll be more likely to take sips throughout the day.

Be a good sport

We know we talk a lot about water, but hey, that’s what we do best. However, one of the best ways to make sure you stay as healthy as possible is to consume sports drinks in addition to your regular water intake. Sports drinks contain electrolytes that help to replace the sodium athletes lose when they sweat.

 

We all need to stay hydrated, but athletes need to work on it a little bit more than the rest of us. To keep yourself hydrated, check out these hacks. If you take these hydration tips to heart, who knows — maybe you’ll be up on a podium wearing the gold one day!

 

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How to Observe AND Preserve for Water Quality Month

Did you know August is National Water Quality Month? Not many people do, but that’s why we’re here — to spread the word. You can make simple changes in your water usage that will have a huge impact on local ecosystems and watersheds.

Think about all the little critters that play in the neighborhood creek or the pond by the park. Their health is literally in your hands. Your own water supply is one of the many places where polluted runoff occurs. Follow some of the helpful tips below to be on your way toward a cleaner and happier watershed.

 

·      Remember when you were six years old and your pet goldfish passed away? Your parents probably had a nice little toilet funeral for it. Well, believe it or not, flushing Goldie wasn’t too good for the environment. Let’s stop flushing anything that the toilet isn’t meant for. This includes medications, goldfish and leftover cleaning products.

 

·      Speaking of pets, we all know cleaning up after them is a cumbersome task. However, if their waste is left where it falls, it can get washed down storm drains, spreading  that bacteria into your drinking water.

 

·      Cars can create a huge mess if not tended to properly. You can still work on that old Corvette in the garage, but make sure you lay down some plastic liners to collect any dripping oil or other fluids first.

 

·      Gardens can be quite harmful to watersheds. If you use pesticides or chemical fertilizers, the runoff is some of the worst. If you have a patch of land dedicated to growing fruits, vegetables or flowers, you should take extra precautions and use organic repellents.

 

·      The same idea goes for toxic household products. One way or another, they get rinsed down the drain. To avoid contaminating your water, consider buying non-toxic, organic cleaners.

 

·      Finally, if you’re thinking about paving your driveway or other parts of your property, you might want to reconsider. Rainwater rinses off pavement and drags any pollutants it comes in contact with straight into the nearest drain. Without the pavement, water soaks into the ground, diluting contaminants and preventing flooding.

 

Over the past decade, watershed purity has declined. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’ 2005-2015, “Every day, more than 2 million tons of sewage drain into the world’s waters.” 

It’s never been more important to stay conscious, keep updated and be proactive about water quality.

Not sure where your watershed is located or what condition it’s in? Just input your zip code or town name to Surf Your Watershed to find out.

Go out and start saving the planet – one flush at a time.

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Top Songs to Sing in the Shower

 

On average, a person spends roughly eight minutes in the shower. Do you know what a person does during those eight minutes? They sing. Yes, we all do it, or have done it.

Do you ever feel like your voice sounds better in the shower? And then you get this overwhelming confidence that you should go on The Voice because you could potentially be the next big thing?

Yeah, us too. That’s because the shower is on our side. With its size and shape, our voices create the most perfect sound waves (or so we think).

So, tell us, what are some of your favorite songs to sing? We created a list of the top 10 songs to sing in the shower and we promise they will not disappoint. Plus, they’re all pretty short songs, so they’re perfect for timing a nice, short shower that gets you clean and conserves water. Start those vocal exercises because after reading this, you’re going to want to get singing. 

“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”

Who: The Proclaimers 

Why we sing along: It is definitely easier to sing about walking 500 miles than actually doing the action itself. So, pretend to put on your walking shoes and get ready for a crazy adventure of belting notes ranging from E to B. 

“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”

Who: Elton John and Kiki Dee

Why we sing along: OK, singing a duet is so much fun because you get to change characters in the midst of all the excitement. One minute you’re Elton and the next you’re Kiki. What else could you want? 

“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”

Who: Whitney Houston

Why we sing along: Um, it’s Whitney Houston. There are no other reasons necessary.  

“Billie Jean"

Who: Michael Jackson

Why we sing along: Other than the fact that it’s the King of Pop, this song tells a story and it’s one that we all know well. We dare you to try and not sing or dance to this tune.  

“I Will Survive”

Who: Gloria Gaynor

Why we sing along: Bad breakup? Nothing Gloria Gaynor can’t help with. Be the survivor she sings about.  

 “Dancing Queen” 

Who: ABBA

Why we sing along: You cannot resist ABBA. We love this song because not only can you sing it, but you can also dance along because — drum roll please — you are the dancing queen, baby! 

“Don’t Stop Believin’" 

Who: Journey 

Why we sing along: Journey said it best: Don’t stop believin’ and definitely don’t stop singin’! This is the ultimate tune to play “rock star,” so don’t hold anything back. If you’re destined to win The Voice, you have to nail all of the ranges of these notes. 

“Sweet Caroline"

Who: Neil Diamond

Why we sing along: Ahhhh. “Sweet Caroline.” One of the best. We’ve all tried replacing “Caroline” with our own names. Unfortunately, it just isn’t the same. Sweet Caroline it is, and that’s all it’ll stay Thank you, Neil! 

“I Want to Know What Love is”

Who: Foreigner

Why we sing along: Do you want to know what love is? Because we sure do and this classic song is going to help us. It’s easy to let go and put your entire heart and soul into this jam…so do it. The steamy shower won’t mind. 

 “Can’t Stop the Feelin’" 

Who: Justin Timberlake  

Why we sing along: Yes, we had many of the classics above, but this song was necessary. It is all over the radio right now and it’s so catchy, you can’t help but sing along with the ever-soulful JT. Don’t even try to stop that feeling. Get in the shower and belt your heart out! 

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