Faces of the Cam­paign

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - Sports -

Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter has been pro­vid­ing wa­ter ser­vice in East St. Louis, Belleville, Gran­ite City and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties for more than 125 years. Serv­ing the Metro-East has been a priv­i­lege, says Bruce Hauk, Pres­i­dent of Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter. The com­pany’s statewide head­quar­ters of­fice is based in Belleville, and Hauk be­lieves Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter’s his­tory and legacy in the Metro-East can be at­trib­uted to one thing: a team of ta­lented, ded­i­cated em­ploy­ees. Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter is a sub­sidiary of Amer­i­can Wa­ter (NYSE: AWK) and is the largest in­vestor-owned wa­ter util­ity in Illi­nois. Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter pro­vides wa­ter and/ or waste­water ser­vices to ap­prox­i­mately 1.3 mil­lion peo­ple through­out Illi­nois. Amer­i­can Wa­ter, the par­ent com­pany, has a strong pres­ence in Illi­nois, as well. Along with Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter lo­cally, Amer­i­can Wa­ter op­er­ates its na­tional cus­tomer ser­vice cen­ter in Al­ton and its na­tional qual­ity con­trol and re­search lab­o­ra­tory in Belleville. At Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter, a team of about 450 em­ploy­ees in 13 op­er­at­ing dis­tricts works ev­ery day to en­sure qual­ity wa­ter and waste­water ser­vices for cus­tomers. The com­pany has four re­gional of­fices in the state – Chicago Metro, Peo­ria, Cham­paign County and In­terur­ban (Belleville/Metro-East). More than 300 of these em­ploy­ees are rep­re­sented by a la­bor union. Keep­ing em­ploy­ees safe is a top pri­or­ity at Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter. “Em­ployee safety is both a core value and a key strat­egy here,” said Karen Cooper, se­nior man­ager of field ser­vices and pro­duc­tion. “Com­mit­ment to em­ployee safety is para­mount. It is em­bed­ded in ev­ery­thing we do – ev­ery day, ev­ery project, ev­ery main break, ev­ery time we get be­hind the wheel of a truck.” Cooper adds the com­pany’s fo­cus on safety also ex­tends to con­trac­tors, who must meet safety qual­i­fi­ca­tions cri­te­ria be­fore per­form­ing work for the com­pany. A key part of op­er­at­ing a com­mu­nity wa­ter sys­tem is con­tin­u­ous in­vest­ment in the lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture. Pipes, pumps, fil­ters, etc. must con­tin­u­ously be up­dated and re­placed to en­sure re­li­able ser­vice. Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter in­vests ap­prox­i­mately $70 mil­lion to $100 mil­lion an­nu­ally in sys­tem im­prove­ments and in­fra­struc­ture – from in­stalling wa­ter mains and lin­ing sewer pipes to re­plac­ing me­ters and fire hy­drants, as well as up­grad­ing wa­ter treat­ment plant sand waste­water col­lec­tion equip­ment. Presently, a $12 mil­lion improve­ment is near­ing com­ple­tion at the wa­ter treat­ment plant that serves the Metro-East, lo­cated in East St. Louis. Wa­ter qual­ity also re­mains a top pri­or­ity. The source of wa­ter in the Metro-East is the Mis­sis­sippi River. Wa­ter is treated, tested and pro­duced from wa­ter treat­ment plants in East St. Louis and Gran­ite City. Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter mon­i­tors and tests wa­ter pro­vided ev­ery step of the way, from source to tap. Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter has an ex­cep­tional track record in wa­ter qual­ity and mon­i­tor­ing. Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter’s wa­ter qual­ity re­sults have been na­tion­ally rec­og­nized with Di­rec­tors Awards for par­tic­i­pat­ing in the U.S. EPA’s Part­ner­ship for Safe Wa­ter pro­gram. Wa­ter treat­ment plants through­out the state, in­clud­ing Gran­ite City and East St. Louis, have earned this pres­ti­gious award for on­go­ing ef­forts to achieve wa­ter qual­ity lev­els that not only meet fed­eral and state drink­ing wa­ter reg­u­la­tory stan­dards, but go above and beyond the min­i­mum re­quire­ments. Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter takes an ac­tive part in the com­mu­ni­ties it serves and sup­ports many ini­tia­tives re­lated to wa­ter and the en­vi­ron­ment. A few ex­am­ples are:

• En­vi­ron­men­tal Grant Pro­gram: Through part­ner­ships, grants of up to $10,000 are awarded an­nu­ally to sup­port in­no­va­tive, com­mu­nity-based en­vi­ron­men­tal projects that im­prove, re­store or pro­tect the lo­cal wa­ter­sheds or wa­ter sup­plies.

• Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Dis­posal Pro­gram: Through part­ner­ship and col­lab­o­ra­tion with lo­cal phar­ma­cies, en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ards, po­lice de­part­ments and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter has helped to im­ple­ment over 35 per­ma­nent phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal dis­posal pro­grams across the state. Dis­posal drop boxes have been in­stalled at lo­cal po­lice de­part­ments and city halls to al­low res­i­dents to dis­pose prop­erly of old phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and pre­scrip­tions and not flush them down the toi­let. The pro­gram re­duces un­used drugs in medicine cab­i­nets and keeps them out of lo­cal water­ways.

• Mo­bile Ed­u­ca­tional Cen­ter (MEC): The mo­bile learn­ing cen­ter of­fers stu­dents a hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence test­ing wa­ter through var­i­ous lab tests. The MEC comes equipped with a large-screen mon­i­tor for view­ing wa­ter-re­lated ed­u­ca­tional videos.

• Fire­fighter Grants: Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter works closely with lo­cal fire de­part­ments and dis­tricts to en­sure pub­lic safety. The an­nual Fire­fighter Grants pro­gram re­wards lo­cal fire de­part­ments an­nu­ally with grants to help pay for equip­ment, train­ing, and sup­plies that will ben­e­fit their re­spected com­mu­ni­ties. For more than a decade, Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter has been as­sist­ing cus­tomers through its H2O Help to Oth­ers pro­gram. The cus­tomer as­sis­tance pro­gram is ad­min­is­tered by lo­cal Sal­va­tion Army agen­cies and helps pro­vide sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing to cus­tomers who would oth­er­wise have trou­ble pay­ing their wa­ter bills. The pro­gram is sup­ported by con­tri­bu­tions from Illi­nois Amer­i­can Wa­ter and vol­un­tary do­na­tions from cus­tomers – no fed­eral or state tax dol­lars.

“Through­out our his­tory of more than a cen­tury, we have been very for­tu­nate to at­tract and re­tain a very ta­lented and ded­i­cated team of em­ploy­ees,” said Hauk. “They live and work in the com­mu­ni­ties we serve. They raise their fam­i­lies here. Pro­vid­ing qual­ity, re­li­able wa­ter ser­vice is es­sen­tial to their com­mu­ni­ties, to their neigh­bor­hoods, to their friends and fam­i­lies, to lo­cal busi­nesses. They take that im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­ity to heart, each and ev­ery day.”

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