Two companies win $25K each in local water competition


Two water-technology companies won $25,000 apiece Thursday evening in the first-ever Pipeline H2O product commercialization program, based at the city of Hamilton’s Hamilton Mill facility.

Both companies specialize in cleaning water — Lexington, Ky.-based PowerTech Water, in the realm of low-cost purification of water for the bourbon-producing and other industries; and Cincinnati-based Searen, which also helps water-dependent industries treat their water, for fish farms and other industries.

RELATED: Water innovators take next step in making ideas reality

“Over one quadrillion gallons of water (1 followed by 15 zeros) are consumed every year globally,” said Cameron Lippert, founder of PowerTech. “And only 10 percent of that are used domestically for things like showering and washing your clothes.”

“So that means over 900 trillion gallons are consumed every year by industry,” Lippert said in his description of his company’s product. “There’s roughly 100 million businesses globally that rely on clean water to produce their goods. Unbeknownst to most consumers, there’s a significant water footprint associated with the production of these goods.”

In the bourbon industry, Lippert said, “it takes roughly 300 gallons of water to produce one bottle of bourbon.” His company’s product is a more efficient process to purify the water.

“Top-quality bourbon needs top-quality water,” he said. “To quote one of our partners, ‘We’re a water-treatment company that also sells bourbon.’”

MORE: Company sees pipeline of money in hydroelectric dams

Meanwhile, Searen representatives noted the nation faces increasing demand for a limited resource, clean water. And current wastewater-treatment processes “are outdated, complex, expensive, and energy-intensive,” according to their presentation.

Searen’s water-cleaning process, a vacuum-air-lift, “is a multi-function device that cleans water using low energy,” the company announced. A vacuum pump draws water up a small tower, and bubbles rise in the tower, they cause extraction of wastes, gases and solids into a tank that discharges them from the system, leaving the clean water.

Using the forces of atmospheric pressure and gravity, the energy-efficient process.

Searen’s first market aim is farm-raised fish.

CLOSER LOOK: What makes Hamilton’s tap water world’s best-tasting?

Antony Seppi of the Hamilton Mill and Pipeline H2O programs, said one of the water-tech program’s slogans is “Pilot locally, deploy globally.”

Aside for a chance at the two $25,000 prizes, the program helped the five businesses and one non-profit organization to hone their presentation skills, work with mentors and work with companies and utilities that could help improve their products.

The Pipeline program put companies in touch with food and beverage companies, such as Pepsi, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and with utilities in the region, including those at the city of Hamilton, in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The firms also met with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation for assistance.

In addition to helping the businesses grow, their products can help create “smarter cities, more efficient cities,” Seppi said.

The winners of the $25,000 prizes were chosen in a unique way: Over the course of about 15 weeks, the participating six businesses ranked their competition in six categories, which were weighted. The two winners were the ones with highest scores.

MORE: Hamilton water-cleaning startup may save money and lives

Several of the six groups not only have the potential to make money, but they also have the ability to improve people’s lives.

Among them:

  • AguaClara, based in Ithaca, N.Y., a non-profit, builds municipal-sized water treatment facilities in poor countries such as Honduras and India.
  • ANDalyze, of Champaign, Ill., has created devices that can test for heavy metals and other dangerous contaminants in water. Rather than taking weeks and hundreds of dollars per sample, its hand-held devices can test water for the contaminants in less than a minute for about $6.
  • kWRiver Hydroelectric, based in Hamilton, has developed hydroelectric facilities that can be used at low-level dams, like the one on the Great Miami River south of downtown Hamilton, to produce environmentally friendly electricity.
  • And WaterStep, based in Louisville, Ky., has developed a compact “Water on Wheels” unit that provides rapid-response water-cleaning that’s needed in disasters and emergencies, where water is at a premium.

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