In Indiana, upgraded mains make the water flow round—literally!

If you’ve been keeping up with our Aquastructure blog series, you know that water mains play an integral role in providing reliable water service to surrounding communities. That’s why we’re excited to share that Aqua recently took on a water main improvement project in Indiana, installing over 3,000 feet of new water mains and five new fire hydrants in the town of Darlington.

In order to fully grasp the value and extent of these upgrades, we connected with Kieran Tansy, area manager at Aqua Indiana. Let’s explore what exactly makes this project so beneficial for our customers in Darlington. 

What’s the big deal with a water main replacement?

"When a water main is replaced, the new line is installed near the old line. Those new customer service lines are run from the new main to each existing meter pit or curb stop,” Tansy explains. Lines are installed either through direct excavation or underground drilling when appropriate. 

Tansy reports that the new lines have been professionally engineered by Aqua to be sized and located appropriately to provide the best long-term service to our customers and provide safe access to Aqua employees for maintenance activities.

A behind-the-scenes look at infrastructure upgrades in Darlington.

Why replace it now?

Over the course of this project, our team uncovered 3,215 feet of unreliable plastic, transite, and steel lines, which resulted in some main breaks since the lines were rarely located where the plans indicated. Despite these obstacles, Tansy says, “the customers, town employees, and town officials were very patient and wonderful to work with during these interruptions in service.”

Replacing these worn lines was necessary to improve not only water flow, but also water pressure. With these newer and more durable lines, the water mains will be able to carry a higher volume of water to our customers in their homes, businesses, and offices. 

Don’t forget the additional perks!

Aqua Indiana officials and Darlington town council members also celebrated the installation of five new fire hydrants and all of the new water main with a ceremonial “Fire Hydrant Opening” in June. “Although the Darlington water system is not required to provide fire protection, we are glad to provide more hydrants that are available for the fire department’s use,” Tansy adds. 

Ta-da: Part of the finished product on Madison Street looking South.

Additionally, these new lines will bring higher and more consistent water pressure to our customers, especially during peak usage times. Our crews are pleased with the final result of this project, and our entire Aqua Indiana team looks forward to providing even more reliable service to the Darlington community. 

Whether we’re working in Indiana or any of the eight states we serve, we’re dedicated to providing safe, reliable water to all of our customers. Stay tuned to learn more about our infrastructure improvement projects in our next Aquastructure blog! 

 

 

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Imposter Alert: Protect Yourself and Your Belongings

Aqua recently learned of an incident involving a man identifying himself as a water company employee to gain access into a customer’s home and steal their belongings. Aqua would like to use this unfortunate event as an opportunity to remind our customers about this issue so you’re more aware in the future.

 

Imagine it’s the early morning and you’re home alone. A man outside identifies himself as a water company employee. He says there are leaks in your area, and he’s checking the homes on your street and needs to check your meter and the inside pipes. Once inside, he asks you to run water in the util­ity sink as he checks the upstairs bathroom sink. While upstairs, he steals jewelry and money left on a dresser.

 

In most cases, the only time Aqua would need to be inside your home is to service or exchange a meter or to respond to a problem about which you called us. In the former case, Aqua would contact you by mail or phone to schedule an appointment first.

 

There are a few exceptions when you might receive an unannounced visit from Aqua:

 

  • An employee might come to your door to make you aware of an unscheduled service outage, such as a main break. In this case, the employee would not need to access the inside of your home. An Aqua employee might also make an unannounced visit to investigate a property that has had multiple “zero usage” bills or an account that has not had a meter read for more than 45 days.
  • If a meter reader has trouble getting a remote meter read from outside your home, he might ask to enter you home to read the meter, in which case he would present a photo ID card.

 

 

For your safety and security, we encourage all customers to be extra cautious. Unfortunately, thieves like these might strike again. You can protect yourself by remembering the following information.

  1. All Aqua employees carry company identifica­tion. In all cases, please confirm the representative’s identification before letting them into your home.
  2. All employees dress in Aqua-branded attire similar to the uniform shown above.
  3. Company vehicles (mostly white Chevrolets) with the Aqua logo prominently displayed are always used.

If you encounter someone who is pretending to be an Aqua employee, please call your local police department and report them.

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Why Water Mains Break

One of the biggest concerns for water utilities during extremely hot or cold weather is water main breaks. Water mains are expected to last a long time – as long as 100 years in many cases. But with many miles of pipe buried underground, it’s reasonable to expect a particular section of pipe will fail or break at some point. The challenge for water utilities is to work proactively to minimize the number of breaks and to respond effectively when a main does break.

While the oldest water mains were made of wood, by the late 1800s, a variety of iron pipe was being used to construct water distribution systems. Common iron varieties included cast and galvanized in the early part of the 20th Century, with galvanized used primarily for smaller diameter pipe. Cast iron pipe was used until the late 1950s when stronger, more flexible ductile iron pipe became common. Plastic pipe, including Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) became common in the 1970s. The primary difference between these two plastic pipes is that PVC is stiffer than HDPE, which is more flexible. Even though pipe is expected to last for decades, that doesn’t mean it won’t break at some point. While it is impossible to predict specific pipe breaks, we know that environmental conditions are a major factor in water main breaks.

In the northern and northeast areas of the country where winters are more extreme, cold soils and cold water combine to add stress to pipes, which can—and often do—result in breaks. Iron, like all metals, contracts as temperatures drop. This problem is more common when the source water is surface water (rivers and lakes). These waters are significantly affected by air temperature and can drop to near freezing in the winter. A temperature difference of just 10 degrees in water or air temperatures can cause pipes to contract or expand. Additional stress inside and outside the pipe occurs as temperatures near the freezing point, making the pipe vulnerable to breakage. Water temperature changes more slowly than air temperature changes so the impact of cold water on pipes can cause breakage to take place as many as a couple days after temperatures freeze. Water systems with groundwater sources (wells) have more stable water temperatures because the water is not affected by air temperatures, and therefore, not as significantly impacted. 

Just as pipes are adversely affected by cold weather conditions, they are also affected by severe heat. In some groundwater systems in the southern and southwestern states, the soils are like sponges and hold lots of water. However, during extended periods of hot temperature when high demands for water increases water withdrawal from the aquifers, the soil becomes very dry. In these conditions, the soil contracts and subsides, pulling away from the pipe and diminishing support for the water main. The absence of support for the main can cause it to break. This particular problem led the City of Houston, Texas to begin to convert its groundwater supply to surface water.

Although older mains are generally more susceptible to breaks, breaks can occur on newer mains. This is most likely the result of improper installation or a manufacturing issue with that particular section of pipe. By examining trends in water main breaks over time, a utility is better able to identify categories of pipe that are more prone to breaks, and thus proactively target that pipe for replacement. Aqua employs such tactics in determining which mains to replace. By the end of 2013, Aqua expects to have spent $170 million of its $325 million capital improvement program on water main replacement and associated work.

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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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Get To Know Aqua: Executive Assistant Jennifer Knotts

Get to know Aqua and the employees that work day in and day out to provide quality customer service and reliable drinking water to approximately 3 million customers. In this week’s ‘Employee Highlight,’ we spoke to Executive Assistant, Jennifer Knotts. 

1. My name is… Jennifer Knotts. I am married to my husband, Shae, and I have two boys, Jared and Gavin. They are my whole world!

2. My title is... Executive Assistant 

3. That means I (do what?)… I do a little bit of everything, payables, payroll, planning events, doing administrative work for the office or Tom Bruns (Aqua Indiana President), handling customers, handling customer accounts for Western Hancock Utilities, Wymberly, Chimneywood and Heir Industries, serving as back up for Fran Paul when she is out of the office for Hendricks and Darlington, reviewing aging reports, doing certified letters for Shut Off Not for Nonpayments (SONP) and working with Field Services Representatives (FSR) out in the field. 

4. I work with water for a living, but my favorite water related activity is... Swimming. I really like going to water parks with my children.

5. If I had to pick 3 words to describe myself, they’d be… Kind, dedicated and organized.

6. Since I started working at Aqua, the most fun I experienced was… The 360 Team Building Dinner in Fort Wayne.  We had to work as a team and it was fun and enjoyable to see co-workers out of the office, laughing and having a great time!

7. The most interesting thing I’ve crossed off my “Bucket List” is… Getting a tattoo. Mine is a Dolphin.

8. My co-workers don’t know this, but I’m actually a big fan of... Disney, Eeyore and Little Mermaid are my favorite. Anytime I can go to Walt Disney World – I will. 

9. In the summer, you can find me... Outside hiking, coaching soccer or spending time with my family.

10. Favorite childhood toy was…. I did not really care for toys I enjoyed the big boxes my dad would bring home from work and we would build forts out of them.

11. When I was a kid, I always thought I’d grow up to be... FBI Agent

12. Do you have any pets? (Name, Age, Type) Yes, we have two Miniature Schnauzers. One boy 2 years old and one girl 4 years old. Dex and Dakota.

13. If I could be one movie character, I would be...because... A pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean. It just seemed like a great movie and so much fun!

14. My favorite “guilty pleasure” snack is… Chocolate and Peanut Butter (Twix, Reese’s, or Reese Sticks)

15. Don’t tell anybody, but I’ve always had a celebrity crush on… Johnny Depp

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