Tag Archives: Ed Beaulieu

Extreme green makeover in Sugar Grove

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—For two days last weekend, the St. Charles-based Aqua-scape, Inc. turned the Lakes of Bliss Woods Subdivision into an in-the-field classroom for its contractors. The independently-owned business owners who purchase their product from Aquascape received training in how to design and install an effective rainwater harvest system, and about 25 families received completed ecosystem ponds, rain gardens, rain barrels and other water exchange solutions by Saturday night.

“Nice, nice,” resident Brad Huggins said as he and his wife Audrey watched a crew of contractors from California, Arizona and Illinois turn the front of their house into a gurgling water feature nestled in a bed of decorative rocks.

The Huggins’ rain water system installation was part of Aquascape’s 20th annual Pondemonium, a large-scale networking, training and education event for contractors across the country and Canada to learn the latest about the company’s products.

Aquascape, Inc., which creates and markets a wide range of water gardening products, including backyard ponds and waterfalls, began looking into the rainwater harvesting concept several years ago. Aquascape’s Chief Sustainability Officer Ed Beaulieu said that 75 percent of the calls the company’s technology department currently receives are about rainwater harvesting.

Although the fountain will provide Brad and Audrey a pretty and relaxing spot to spend a summer evening, it’s what is underneath the ground that makes it more than just a nice amenity.

The RainXchange system includes a 500-gallon underground water storage tank designed to collect rain water from the roof and a booster pump that turns an everyday garden hose into a power washer for the car or a tool to water the lawn and surrounding landscape.

In the past, when it rained, it would run off the Huggins’ roof and down the drainpipe, flow through the bushes and plants and mulch, across the sidewalk and down a storm sewer in the street.

“We would always see all this water going to waste,” Brad said. “We knew we needed to do something.”

Then they received an e-mail from their neighbors Ed and his wife Ellen, who also works for Aquascape, Inc., inviting them to participate in the extreme green community makeover by purchasing a rainwater harvest system for their home.

Brad said it made sense to become environmentally conscious of the water they use, especially with the water shortages the village has experienced the past few years. Water had become so scarce that the village imposed restrictions on residents’ water use for the past two summers.

“This is perfect,” Brad said. “This is the answer to everything.”

Beaulieu came to talk to the Sugar Grove Village Board a few months ago about their project, and told them he and Ellen wanted to use the community as a model for the company’s RainXchange solutions. Their idea is to create something that can be replicated in other communities.

The response was overwhelming, he said.

Brad said he was “pleased as punch” about their system, and that it is even better than he expected.

“We’re just so lucky to have Ed and Ellen here in our community,” he said.

Lakes of Bliss Woods ponds and other water features will be part of Aquascape’s 17th annual Parade of Ponds, held the weekend of July 25-26. The tour features a variety of water features at more than 65 tour locations in the western suburbs.

Proceeds from ticket purchases benefit the Aquascape Foundation, a not-for-profit 501 3C organization dedicated to creating sustainable solutions for the world-wide water crisis.

Photo: A certified Aquascape contractor tests the water fountain on a RainXchange system during Saturday’s Pondemonium. Photo by Susan O’Neill

Local company brings clean water to African village

by Susan O’Neill
Sugar Grove resident Ed Beaulieu can give his customers in the United States plenty of reasons why it is a good idea to capture rainwater and use it for their gardens.

Beaulieu created the rainwater harvesting system for Aquascape, Inc. On a recent trip to Ghana, in West Africa, Beaulieu and his team demonstrated how the system, with a few modifications, can literally save lives in a developing country.

Aquascape is a St. Charles-based company that specializes in water gardens, including ponds, fountains and waterfall features. Recently the company diversified its product line to include rainwater harvesting systems. The systems capture, filter and store rainwater for future irrigation of plants and lawns.

Beaulieu said the use of rainwater not only saves money on water bills, it keeps the water from ending up in sewer drains, picking up pesticides and other pollutants along the way. Eventually, the polluted water ends up in our streams and rivers, creating dead zones where fish and other living things cannot survive. The aquifers that supply our water are not being recharged, and many areas are running out of water, including some in the United States, he explained.

Women and young girls in the Ghanian village of Kuve spend hours each day collecting water from the nearby Volta River, Kuve’s only source for water, said Aquascape, Inc. owner Greg Wittstock’s wife Carla, president of the Aquascape Foundation.

The water they bring back to the village is filled with bacteria and is not safe for drinking. Carla said it carries water-borne diseases and many children die before the age of five.

“They don’t know it’s not normal to have stomach pains and diarrhea,” she said.

Carla said that Aquascape, Inc. makes its living from water and does very well. To discover that so many people do not even have access to clean drinking water is a huge disparity that does not seem right.

Team Ghana members (below) included (front row) Karen and Dayton Wright, (left of plaque, from left) Tim Muttoo, Isaac Ferrell, Alan Schell (right of plaque) Al Lentz, Lauri Mitchell, (behind plaque, from left) April Dugan, Tim Bottoms, Ed Beaulieu, Keith Robinson, Roberto Cosme, Dale Vnuk, Carla Wittstock, Bob Blasing and Glenn Ferrell.
Team Ghana members (below) included (front row) Karen and Dayton Wright, (left of plaque, from left) Tim Muttoo, Isaac Ferrell, Alan Schell (right of plaque) Al Lentz, Lauri Mitchell, (behind plaque, from left) April Dugan, Tim Bottoms, Ed Beaulieu, Keith Robinson, Roberto Cosme, Dale Vnuk, Carla Wittstock, Bob Blasing and Glenn Ferrell.
Carla learned of the need in Ghana through the IN Network, a Christian organization in Michigan that connects partners in evangelism, discipleship and community development. IN Network recently built a school in Kuve, but the school was without water and electricity.

Beaulieu, vice-president of Aquascape’s foundation, said the foundation worked with the Canadian company Genieye Systems, Inc. to create a rainwater harvesting system that uses Genieye’s ionization manifold to purify the water. The ionization system, powered by a solar panel, allows it to work in places without access to electricity, such as Kuve.

“That’s when we nailed down a very simple solution to a complicated problem,” Carla said.

Carla and Greg Wittstock, Greg’s mother Lauri Mitchell, Beaulieu and two other Aquascape employees, Roberto Cosme and Tim Bottoms, joined a number of water landscape contractors from around the country in January to build a rainwater harvesting and purification system for Kuve’s new school.

The team of 15 paid their own way to Ghana and worked alongside the local villagers. Beaulieu said that word of what they were doing spread to nearby villages and each day, more and more people showed up to watch, and then to help.

He said that because Ghana was a British colony, English is widely spoken, making communication with the local people easy.

“We created some great bonds,” Carla said.

Beaulieu said the women carried 90,000 pounds of sand, the equivalent of two semi-trucks full, on their heads for use as back-fill.

The rainwater is captured from the roof of the school, and the pump is power by a solar panel on the roof. Beaulieu said the workers ran into a problem when they realized the building was pitched 16 inches in the wrong direction. They had to dig an underground trench in hard, packed-down clay to reroute the water and add 200 more feet of piping.

Beaulieu said that luckily, their top contractors were involved in the project.

“They have a never-say-die attitude,” he said.

When they were finished, they hooked everything up to the solar panel to charge a 12-volt car battery that operated the switches to activate a small electric pump. The pump moved the water through the ionization system, sterilizing it and killing off any pathogens and bacteria.

When it came time to test the system, the local women pitched in again, carrying 1,500 gallons of water from the river on their heads.

“The women definitely hold their own,” Carla said.

The villagers held a dedication ceremony on the last day to honor the workers. Carla said they built a beautiful dedication plaque and gave all of them hand-woven scarves to wear during the celebration.

Beaulieu said it was a wonderful feeling to provide 500 children with safe drinking water. He said that even though it is a simple system, it will capture 100,000 gallons of water a year.

With a clean supply of water, the school will be able to provide a meal each day for the children. Not only will it save lives, but the hours it will save the women every day can now be used to create more economic opportunities for themselves, and more children will be able to go to school.

“It was an amazing experience,” Beaulieu said. “The people were wonderful. The sights, the sounds, the smells and the temperature; it’s one of those trips that words and pictures can’t do justice.”

Since they have been home, Beaulieu said they have spoken about their trip and their hopes for the future at several Rotary clubs and other organizations. He said they would like to go back to Ghana, and they have talked about building the systems in Columbia, the Dominican Republic and Kenya.

“There are lots of people interested in working with us,” he said. “We’re a successful company, and I would love to leverage our strengths and give back to others less fortunate. There’s a huge, huge need.”

For more information about the Aquascape Foundation, visit www.aquascapeinc.com/aquascapefoundation or call (630) 659-2064.

For more information about IN Network, visit www.innetworkusa.org.

Top photo: Members of the Ghanian village of Kuve (above) gather around the new rainwater harvesting system that will capture, filter and store clean water for daily use. Courtesy Photos