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May 4, 2010
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NAWC Members Help Communities Commemorate Earth Day from Coast to Coast

Earth Day, the day set aside globally to appreciate our planet, provides an opportunity to consider what we as individuals, or as representatives of organizations, can contribute to the ecological health and vitality of the Blue Planet.

On April 22, people across the United States celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by working to make their little piece of nature better. The very first Earth Day was designed as a “nationwide teach-in day” about the environment, and since water is, of course, an essential resource that we cannot live without, one of the most sustainable impacts private water companies can make is through educating others — especially children who will be leading environmental protection in the years ahead — about the things they can do to protect and enjoy our natural resources.

Missouri American Water partnered with the World Bird Sanctuary to present “Wings Over Water,” a watershed education program that dramatically illustrated the importance of watershed protection to people and wildlife by featuring native birds of prey in-flight (pictured). Programs were held at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Earth Day Celebration on the steps of the state capitol in Jefferson City and at the Mexico, Mo., Earth Day Celebration.

Suburban Water Systems, a California-based subsidiary of SouthWest Water Company, honored Earth Day by joining the Los Angeles County Sanitation District and many other agencies at a free community-wide event promoting environmental awareness. Suburban’s booth featured an arts and crafts activity teaching children about the water cycle and the importance of water conservation. Children crafted multi-colored beaded bracelets, each bead symbolizing a different stage of the water cycle.

For the 17th year in a row in Peoria, Illinois American Water helped The Sun Foundation kick off the annual Clean Water Celebration. Events included a local presentation along the Illinois riverfront with a Native American blessing of the river and science river walk, which featured several booths with info on recycling, rain barrels and fish identification. Students from American’s local "Adopt a School" volunteered to demonstrate the water treatment process to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who was in attendance.

And in Pontiac, Ill., Illinois American Water announced the extension of their fluorescent light tube recycling and disposal program to city officials and Pontiac High School facilities. By making this important disposal method available to more groups throughout the community, American hopes to reach their goal of keeping these harmful materials out of the area landfill.

Connecticut Water planted three xeriscape gardens in Naugatuck, Clinton and East Windsor as part of a large demonstration project to create awareness for water-efficient gardening.

West Virginia American Water gave out refillable sports water bottles to Marshall University students, urging them to save space in the landfills by refilling the bottles instead of buying bottled water from the cafeteria.

In New Jersey, Middlesex Water had employees judge the more than 1,200 entries received in its Water Drop Pledge Contest. Elementary students living in Middlesex Water’s service area were invited to decorate a water drop and provide one idea of how they hoped to help protect the environment. Winners received a $25 gift card and were selected based on the creativity and originality of their artwork and idea.

If you were in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Earth Day, you saw Tennessee American Water offering conservation tips, flower seed packets and low-flow garden sprayers at events held at the Memorial Hospital, Hamilton Place Mall and Tennessee Aquarium.

Female water professionals from Veolia Water and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) gathered more than 150 Girl Scouts ages eight and older from Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha to gather at Jones Island for a unique opportunity to earn their water badges on Earth Day by conducting water and conservation experiments. And on the same day in Chicago, Veolia Environnement partnered with Disney to offer a private screening of Oceans, a new nature film about the importance of our oceans and the creatures within.

Activities such as these show that NAWC members improve their communities not just by providing clean and safe water and wastewater services, but by their commitment to protect the environment where their employees and customers live, work and play.


Aqua Pennsylvania to Receive Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence

Aqua Pennsylvania Inc., is among a select group of companies chosen by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) to receive the Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence. Aqua was selected to receive the prestigious award for its recent construction of a 1.1-megawatt photovoltaic solar farm at its Ingram's Mill Water Treatment Plant in East Bradford Township, which serves drinking water to the West Chester, Penn., area.

The Governor's Awards for Environmental Excellence are presented each year by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to highlight the best in environmental innovation and expertise throughout the Commonwealth. The awards are the highest statewide honor bestowed upon businesses and organizations for environmental performance and innovation from cleaning up watersheds, saving energy and eliminating pollution to reducing waste and more.

Aqua's Ingram's Mill renewable energy project uses high-efficiency panels to convert sunlight into useful power, thereby reducing the region's power generation requirements. The $6 million project was partially funded with a $1 million grant through the federal stimulus program, administered through the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA). The 4.5-acre solar farm is the second largest solar installation on the East Coast. The new facility:

  • Offsets the need for 3,000 barrels of oil each year; or
  • Avoids the equivalent of 2.6 million car miles each year; or
  • Reduces CO2 emissions by 1.4 million pounds each year.

"We are extremely honored to be selected by the state to receive this award," said Aqua Chairman Nicholas DeBenedictis. "We are very proud to employ cutting-edge green energy technology to support our ability to provide one of the world's most valuable and sustainable resources — drinking water. Our 125-year-old company was created out of concern for the environment and public health, so it makes perfect sense to have a sustainable clean energy source to power our water treatment plant."

"The Pennsylvania Environmental Council is honored to create a gala event around the 2010 Governor's Awards," said PEC President and CEO Don Welsh. "It is our hope that by showcasing the outstanding efforts of organizations, businesses and individuals throughout the Commonwealth, that we can inspire new generations of environmental stewards."


American Water Earns Two Awards of Distinction at Global Water Awards

American Water Works Company Inc., earned two awards of distinction in two categories at Global Water Intelligence's 2010 Global Water Awards. The winners were announced during an awards ceremony featuring Queen Noor of Jordan on April 26 in Paris, France.

The Fillmore Water Recycling Plant earned an award of distinction for Water Reuse Project of the Year. This facility is a state-of-the-art, zero-discharge wastewater treatment plant that was designed, built and is being operated by American Water in a public-private partnership with the City of Fillmore. The plant currently produces one million gallons of high-quality filtered and disinfected water per day that meets the stringent standards for unrestricted reuse irrigation purposes. Approximately 200,000 gallons per day is used to irrigate two public schools, the new Two Rivers Park and a new greenbelt in downtown Fillmore; and about 800,000 gallons per day is discharged to an underground effluent disposal system that provides groundwater recharge. The plant also features advanced technology that maximizes energy efficiency.

"We are honored to have American Water recognized by our peers for our water solutions," said Donald Correll, president and CEO of American Water. "The Fillmore Water Recycling Plant is not just a model for innovation and sustainability, but also for how public-private partnerships can provide tangible, effective solutions for communities' water challenges."

American Water also earned an award of distinction in the category of Water Deal of the Year for its efforts to complete its divestiture. The company returned to public ownership with its IPO in April 2008, and the divestiture was completed in 2009. Combining the exiting shareholder's remaining stake with a new primary issuance, American Water placed a total of $2.1 billion equity in the capital markets throughout 2009. These offerings were the largest by an investor-owned water utility in the U.S. last year.

The GWI Global Water Awards recognize excellence in the global water industry — the projects, the technologies and the people who have made a difference over the past year. The awards represent what the industry perceives as being the most deserving of merit during the year.


Aquarion Employees Give Generously to AmeriCares for Haiti

Stamford-based AmeriCares recently received a contribution of $6,135 from Aquarion Water Company and its employees, who established a collection to help people in Haiti after the January earthquake that took 230,000 lives. AmeriCares sent out a call for financial assistance after the earthquake so it could deliver medical aid and humanitarian relief to the struggling survivors.

“The donations were completely employee-driven,” said Charles V. Firlotte, Aquarion president and CEO. “It makes me proud to lead a company with people who care so much for others who are in desperate circumstances, but I am not surprised — in 23 years with this company, I’ve seen such examples of employees’ generosity over and over again.”


Aqua America Virginia Subsidiary Purchases Systems in Culpepper, Fauquier and Orange Counties, Va.

Aqua America Inc., announced that its Virginia subsidiary, Aqua Virginia Inc. (Aqua), has completed the purchase of the water system assets of the Skyline Water Company Inc., and the Rebel Water Works Inc., which together serve approximately 1,400 people in an area surrounding the town of Culpeper in Culpeper County, and in Orange and Fauquier counties. Aqua already operates nine water systems in the area.

“This is a great opportunity for Aqua — and for our new Virginia customers,” said Aqua America Chairman and CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis. “We’ll invest the time, expertise and dollars to make the infrastructure and treatment improvements these systems need so that we can deliver quality water. And, combined with our existing systems, these new additions will create operating economies of scale that benefit our customers and Aqua alike.”

Aqua paid $564,000 for the systems and plans to invest an equal amount in improvements over the next three years. Aqua serves a approximately 82,000 people throughout Virginia.

Last week, Aqua announced its acquisition of a wastewater company in Illinois. The announcement brings Aqua’s total number of acquisitions to six so far this year.


American Water Funds 2010 Environmental Grant Programs

American Water Works Company Inc., announced the recipients of the company’s 2010 Environmental Grant Program awards. A total of 32 projects throughout American Water’s service areas in eight states will be supported by grants totaling more than $128,000.

Established in 2005, American Water’s Environmental Grant Program offers funds for innovative, community-based environmental projects that improve, restore or protect the watersheds, surface water and/or groundwater supplies in the communities it serves.

“American Water is committed to ensuring water quality through testing and treatment, as well as through consumer education and community source protection programs,” said Debra Vernon, manager of corporate responsibility. “We are all environmental stewards in protecting our water supplies, and this program is one way we help communities play an active role in this important effort.”

Details of the projects are here.


Veolia Water North America Stars in Hollywood Movie

Wilsonville, Ore., is miles from Hollywood, but Veolia Water North America employees working at the city’s surface water treatment plant last spring may have felt as if they were much closer when CBS Films, a film division within CBS Corporation, spent time on-site shooting scenes for its movie, Extraordinary Measures, starring Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell.

Although viewers will think they’re seeing a lab at the University of Nebraska, they’re actually seeing the Wilsonville facility. Footage of the plant’s exterior, its front entrance, reception area and an executive office is included in the movie. CBS Films scouted a number of local facilities before selecting the Wilsonville plant. Veolia Water plant operators worked with film crews to provide the appropriate safety training and to accommodate shooting schedules without compromising service to the city.

Veolia Water has been operating and maintaining the 15-MGD plant under a contract with the City of Wilsonville and Tualatin Valley Water District since 2001. The facility recently celebrated eight years without a lost-time accident.


Aqua America Illinois Subsidiary Purchases Wastewater System in Genoa, Ill.

Aqua America Inc., announced that its Illinois subsidiary, Aqua Illinois Inc., has completed the purchase of the wastewater system assets of Ellwood Greens Utility, which serves approximately 750 people in a residential golf course community located in Genoa, Ill. It will be operated from Aqua's nearby Candlewick system, which is part of its Northern Division.

"We are pleased to add these customers to the Northern division of our Illinois operations," said Aqua America Chairman and CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis. "We look forward to bringing our professional management and technical expertise to the residents of the City of Genoa and will focus on the necessary improvements to keep this system operating efficiently."

In March, Aqua's New Jersey subsidiary purchased the water system assets of Bloomsbury Borough, a municipal water system in Hunterdon County, which serves approximately 1,000 people. In January, the company's Texas subsidiary completed the acquisition of the water system assets of the San Gabriel River Ranch and Indian Springs subdivision water systems located in Williamson and Travis counties respectively, and which collectively serve about 900 people.

"We continue to grow the company through our acquisition strategy and are pleased to have closed our fourth acquisition of 2010," DeBenedictis said.


SouthWest Water Company Awarded National Safety Council Awards

SouthWest Water Company announced that it was recognized with two awards from the National Safety Council (NSC): The Significant Improvement Award and an Occupational Safety and Health Award in Texas.

Both awards recognize companies that demonstrate a minimum of 20 percent reduction in injuries and illnesses that involved days away from work. In 2009, SouthWest Water reduced its Lost Time Incident Rate (LTIR) by 49 percent to 0.53 incidents per 200,000 hours worked. The industry average LTIR is 1.70.

"Our employees' health and safety is a top priority for SouthWest Water," said Mark Swatek, president and CEO of SouthWest Water Company. "I am extremely proud of the progress we have made, which is due to the efforts of all employees, especially those on the front line and their supervisors, to improve the safety culture of their respective workplaces."

NSC awards are designed to help promote the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses. Recognition is provided based on collective safety achievements and implementation of effective safety policies and procedures.



New Jersey American Water Hosts Young Engineers from Ramsey at Conference

Amid the flock of professional engineers at last week’s 75th conference of the American Water Works Association New Jersey (AWWA NJ) in Atlantic City, were five ambitious seventh and eighth grade students from Ramsey, N.J., who were shadowing engineers from New Jersey American Water.

The students — Matthew Broderick, Kelly Hallissey, Marissa Proscia, Brian Roche and Matthew Sabatini (another student, Andrew Pruit, was not present) — attend St. Paul Interparochial School and were guests of New Jersey American Water after winning the company’s “Healthiest Community” award at the 2010 Future Cities Competition earlier this year. The competition pitted teams of students from across New Jersey against each other to build models of futuristic cities that could solve the challenge of “Creating Green Living Spaces to House the Neediest.”

New Jersey American Water Vice President of Engineering Suzanne Chiavari, Engineering Project Manager Ruth Gavel and Engineering Manager Vince Monaco welcomed the students to the AWWA NJ conference and gave them a tour of the show floor while educating them on specifics of the water utility industry. Each student was given a New Jersey American Water baseball cap and a buttoned shirt, and they collected the many giveaways available at exhibition booths.

The students, who were accompanied by Elaine Robinson, St. Paul’s director of technology, and Maureen Gregory, the school’s librarian, were later saluted at a luncheon in recognition of New Jersey American Water’s engineering team. Their day as the company’s special guests concluded when they split into teams and competed in a “water tank building contest” using supplies such as popsicle sticks, rubber bands and chewing gum. With the help of New Jersey American Water engineers James Scott and Eric Hahn, the students successfully built mini water tanks strong enough to hold eight ounces of water in a plastic cup.

Later this year, the St. Paul students will have the opportunity to learn more about the water business when they visit one of New Jersey American Water’s treatment plants.

“New Jersey American Water is thrilled to have the students from St. Paul Interparochical School as our guests for the conference,” said Chiavari. “These are highly motivated young people who have a strong interest in engineering and are determined to translate that interest into careers that will contribute to creating sustainable communities. They have very bright futures ahead of them.”


New Jersey American Water’s David Legg Receives Honors at AWWANJ Convention

New Jersey American Water’s senior director of business development, David R. Legg, of Middletown, N.J., received dual honors at the 75th meeting of the American Water Works Association New Jersey (AWWA NJ) Annual Conference in Atlantic City, N.J.

Legg became the third AWWA NJ member ever to receive The Dedication Award, which is given to a member who has demonstrated outstanding service and dedication to the association through leadership and active participation in AWWA NJ programs. Legg joined AWWA NJ in 1994 and has served as Handbook Chair (2001) and Water Utility Council Chair (1999-2000).

He was also awarded the Kenneth J. Miller Founders’ Award from Water For People, which is given to outstanding volunteers for their service and leadership in the advancement of the Water For People mission at the local committee and regional levels. Water for People is a national organization that helps people in developing countries improve their quality of life by supporting the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities and hygiene education programs. Legg has been with American Water for more than 30 years, beginning his career at West Virginia American Water in 1978 before joining New Jersey American Water in 1994.