Faces of the Campaign
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.”