Access to clean water is one of the most basic requirements for maintaining human health and one of the most challenging issues in the developing world. In India alone, more than a billion people have limited access to clean drinking water. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.8 million people die each year of preventable diarrheal diseases, many of which are blamed on water contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites. Although many forms of water purification technology are available, a good number of them require a large upfront investment and an expensive infrastructure of pipes and treatment systems.
The problem is particularly challenging in remote areas and in poor communities, but Bothell-based HaloSource has arrived at a small, cheap solution by manufacturing patented water purification technologies that are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for long-term use. The company is active in several markets and has recently seen growth in India, China and Brazil, where it focuses on increasing access to clean water.
HaloSource’s HaloPure system is based on bromine, a halogen in the same family as chlorine and iodine. The company manufactures tiny beads with a halogenated coating. These beads are then placed in a cartridge, and when water flows through it, contact with the large surface area of the beads kills bacteria and viruses on contact. To meet varying international standards, devices manufactured by HaloSource can kill 99.99 percent of viruses and 99.9999 percent of bacteria. Its cartridges can be added to a gravity-fed water canister, which is the most common in-home filtration technology in the developing world. The canisters usually include a ceramic filter that removes particles and cleans out some bacteria and parasites. Adding a cartridge reliably kills any bacteria left behind by the filter, and takes care of viruses such as polio and rotavirus.
The beauty of this setup is its independence. Cartridges require only gravity—no electricity, no plumbing—and one bead-filled vial (some as small as a double-A battery). The unit will last a family of five about six months, processing 1,500 liters of water. In India, a system currently costs between $40 and $60, making it accessible to the nation’s middle tier—about 400 million people—says CEO John Kaestle.
Founded by Jeff Williams in 1998, HaloSource started with 120 angel investors and a dozen staff members whose goal was to commercialize a discovery by S. Davis Worley of Auburn University. Since then, the firm