days, Aquarion Water Co. Chief Executive Official Charles Firlotte
is doing more with less.
Deanna Holgerson, Editor
July 29, 2004
an Easton resident, will have been on the job as CEO for a year
this fall. Like many companies, Aquarion is charged with
accomplishing more and performing better with fewer resources.
"Operating efficiency means keeping the prices down for our
customers," said Firlotte, who's in the process of making
changes in how the company runs its business.
These changes include improving computers and water treatment
technology that Aquarion uses now to ensure better water quality
and continuous improvement throughout the plant.
Aquarion, owned by Kelda Group of Yorkshire, England, is the top
taxpayer in Easton and owns much of the watershed property in
town. The company's real estate assessment was $27.74 million in
Since the company is investor-owned, Firlotte said he must look
to grow the company and its returns as well. "Aquarion
isn't expanding into other industries and utilities, which is
where many companies make mistakes," Firlotte said.
"We're sticking to the water supply and treatment
Unlike Connecticut, municipalities own and operate their water
supply and treatment plants in many other parts of the United
States. It's this market that Firlotte is trying to move
"What we have to do is convince municipalities that we can
run their water supply and treatment operations more effectively
and better than they can," Firlotte said.
Aquarion recently began running Bridgeport's sewer system, an
example of the efforts Firlotte has made to expand the company's
"Wastewater is another side of the water business that
Aquarion is moving toward," Firlotte said. "The
municipality still owns its assets and plants. Aquarion is only
contracting to run it."
He said operating efficiency at the Easton Water Treatment Plant
on Buck Hill Road is always a top priority.
Commissioned in 1996, the Easton water treatment plant isn't a
pick-and-shovel operation but a highly automated treatment
plant. Although many water tests are still done by hand, others
The days of a water plant operator being "on watch"
for 24 hours in case of an emergency are gone. Instead, the
operators of the Easton Water Treatment Plant can access the
plant's computer system via a laptop, if necessary, and turn on
and shut off various plant operations.
Other Aquarion water plants are accessible to the plant
operators at the Easton facility at the touch of a computer
"This kind of technology is excellent for the
business," Firlotte said. "It keeps costs down and
results in better efficiency all-around."
Firlotte moved back to the United States with his family last
year to take the helm at Aquarion after a four-year stint with
the Kelda Group in England.
Being a businessman was not Firlotte's first line of work. After
earning a Master's Degree in criminology, he worked for three
years as a parole officer in Canada.
"I thought I'd enjoy that work, but I didn't,"
Firlotte said. "I decided to change my career and went back
to business school."
Eventually he landed a job as a human resources director with
Aquarion in 1987. Since then he has been a customer operations
manager and chief of financial operations. In 2000 the company
asked him to move his family to England to manage a Kelda Group
water treatment facility with 3,000 employees.
Aquarion is the 10th largest investor-owner water supply company
in the United States, supplying water to 80 percent of
Connecticut and parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New
York. The company supplies water to about 50 to 60
Aquarion owns property in several towns, including Easton Lake,
Trap Falls in Shelton and the Warner Treatment Plant in
Fairfield. The company has wells in Westport and Litchfield
Counties. Its customer service call center is in Monroe.
Firlotte said making the company more accessible to the public
is another important aspect of expansion.
"We still allow fishermen to fish and hikers to hike the
water company's 40 miles of trails on its Easton property,"
Firlotte said, "and we also participate in Earth Day."
Aquarion employees are encouraged to become involved in
community organizations, such as local Chambers of Commerce and
Rotary Clubs, Firlotte said.
The company invites students to visit the water plant in Easton
to see how it works and participate in science experiments. The
company offers similar programs to high school students, but the
most popular ones are geared toward elementary-school children.
"These programs for children are tremendously
effective," Firlotte said. "Not only is it good for
public relations, but children leave here with the idea of how
important conservation is, not just for our business but for the
environment as well.
"Our customers want effective service at a reasonable
price, which is something we're committed to. We're also
committed to be stewards of the land and protect our
product," he said.