Page 10 - 2022 Chester County Guide & CCCBI Membership Directory
P. 10

 Working to Make Chester County (and the World) a Healthier Place to Live
Aqua knows water — and Pennsylvania. The utility was founded in 1886 by a group of Swarthmore College professors and has never left its Southeast Pennsylvania roots behind, even as it grew dramatically and became a publicly traded entity on the New York Stock Exchange.
Its longevity notwithstanding, the company has remained nimble, undergoing a number of changes that are designed to keep it thriving — and to ensure that Aqua makes the communities it serves a better, healthier place to live.
One of those changes: in 2018, Aqua acquired natural gas provider Peoples.
The resulting holding company, Essential Utilities, is uniquely positioned to meaningfully contribute to the nation’s gas and water infrastructure reliability.
“This is such a mission-based company,” said Christopher Franklin, CEO of Essential Utilities. “My fellow employees understand that what we do is important to people’s health — if we make a mistake, people can get sick.”
Aqua’s committed employees are supported by high standards for safety and water quality. For example, PFAS, a class
of widely used chemicals found in water and soil around the world, are allowable at 70 parts per trillion, according to federal guidelines. At Aqua, Franklin said, the internal standard is 13 parts per trillion
— much lower than what the federal government requires. “That’s an industry- leading commitment that I’m not aware
of any other utility coming even close to,” Franklin said.
The company’s state-of-the-art laboratory allows it to perform hundreds of thousands of water sample tests every year — all to ensure that Aqua’s water is safe for even the most vulnerable customers.
Each year, Aqua spends more than half a billion dollars on pipe replacement and upgrades to water plants. “We’ll do about 180 miles of new water and sewer mains
just this year,” Franklin said. “We do that with the intention of making our system more reliable so that our customers have good, clean water, and firefighters have good water pressure to fight fires.”
One major task Aqua is tackling: old, rusty pipes. “In the old days, they would put pipe in the ground that had no lining,” Franklin said. “Sometimes we find an eight-inch water main that only an inch or two of water can move through because it’s so rusted. That’s what our pipe replacement plan addresses.”
It’s a daunting task, but Aqua’s team is
well up to the task. Last fall, a severe storm moved through Chester County, leaving the manager’s office at Aqua’s Pickering West water treatment plant outside Phoenixville eight feet underwater. “There were fish
and other debris in our finished water tanks,” Franklin said. “But thanks to our experienced and dedicated team, we got that plant operational again in less than nine days.”
Due to its deep roots in Southeast Pennsylvania, Aqua is deeply engaged in the communities of Chester County and beyond. “We contribute more than four and a half million dollars to organizations and charities in need,” Franklin said. “We focus on trying to improve the environment and education, and we have spent a lot of time more recently on food insecurity.”
But Aqua’s parent Essential Utilities also has plans to make an impact on global-scale problems. As part of its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) plan, the company plans to reduce its Scope 1
and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2035. As part of that effort, several of Aqua’s operating companies, including Aqua Pennsylvania, have moved to 100% renewable energy starting in 2022.
“We have to push water up and down
hills in Southeastern Pennsylvania, so
we’re one of the largest users of PECO Energy,” Franklin said. “That’s a lot of energy use, but we wanted to demonstrate our commitment to improving the environment, so all of our electricity used in our water plants, and to move water around this region, would come from renewable sources such as solar or wind.”
Another major commitment that Essential Utilities has made is to diversity, equity and inclusion. “We looked at the racial makeup of every county where we do business,” said Franklin. “We want our employee base to mirror our customer base in each county. We want our employee base to be about 17% diverse and we’re currently about 15% diverse. While we still have work to do, we’re already doing pretty well.”
All these efforts are part of the overall vision Franklin has for Essential Utilities: “We are temporary stewards — of the company and of the environment,” he said. “It’s our job to improve both at least incrementally so that we can hand off something to the next generation that’s better than when we found it.”
 “My fellow employees understand that what we do is important to people’s health — if we make a mistake, people can get sick.”
Christopher Franklin,
CEO, Essential Utilities
  8 Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry

   8   9   10   11   12