At work, Regional Compliance Manager Michael Melton ensures that Aqua’s water and wastewater systems follow North Carolina and federal laws, but he spends most of his free time working on his two-acre farm.
“Many evenings, I come home, and my wife Wendy and I gather our five children and work on the farm until dark," Michael says. “I’m a hard worker by nature, so I don’t like to go home and turn on the television. I’d rather be outside spending time with the kids. We put in 10 to 15 hours a week on the farm, and I rely on them to help out — even my youngest pitches in by gathering eggs and picking beans.”
In addition to providing quality family time, the farm serves a practical purpose. “With groceries being so expensive — and with my sons being big eaters — the eggs from our chickens help keep our grocery bill down. The farm gives us broccoli, lettuce, potatoes, onions, corn, beans, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, watermelons and cantaloupes. We also make our own bath soap and laundry detergent. As prices continue to rise, many people are looking for cost-efficient ways to provide healthy food for their families.”
But amid the family's agricultural successes are times when Mother Nature doesn’t play nice. “Every year there’s some sort of obstacle,” says Michael. “If you’re in a drought, you have to keep enough water on the crops or you’ll lose them. Sometimes you get a good early crop and feel like you’re ahead of the game until a hailstorm comes and ruins it, which is always hard. One year we had a bumper crop of corn and lost at least a third of it because of tornadoes, hail and bad storms. We’ve dealt with all of the problems that go along with having a farm.”
On the job, Michael travels the state, guiding regulatory compliance for 702 community well systems and 61 wastewater treatment plants. “Both in the water and wastewater areas, regulations have become more stringent; they’re ever-changing,” he says. Across North Carolina, Aqua tests approximately 16,000 to 17,000 water samples every year.
Now and then, Michael's colleagues at Aqua benefit from his success on the farm.
“Harvesting the crops is an exciting time, and when we have extra it’s a great blessing to be able to give some to my co-workers,” he says.