Industrial-strength Water Purifier

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Many industrial processes including construction, mining and gas drilling require large amounts of water to operate. But how do you dispose of all that contaminated water without polluting rivers and streams? WaterTectonics, an Everett company, has developed the WaveIonics water treatment process, a system for quickly removing heavy metals and other pollutants from the water.

WaveIonics uses electrocoagulation, a process Jim Mothersbaugh researched for nine years before founding WaterTectonics in 1999. Electrocoagulation uses electrical current instead of the toxic chemicals traditionally used to treat water. Water that has been used industrially is pumped into a tank where it passes between two pieces of metal with a current flowing between them. The positively charged metal plates cause the impurities and particles, which are primarily negatively charged, to clump together and either fall to the bottom of the tank or rise to the top.

“This is a zero toxicity treatment process,” Mothersbaugh says.

Water treated with the WaveIonics system must be run through an additional filtration process—which WaterTectonics also supplies—before it would be considered potable.

The initial business for WaterTectonics came from construction projects where rainwater needed to be purified before being released into rivers and streams. Microsoft, Amazon and Vulcan have all used WaterTectonics in their construction projects.

When the construction industry faltered in 2008, WaterTectonics shifted to providing water purification services to gas and oil companies. Mothersbaugh saw the new business as an opportunity to make money while also helping the environment. “The oil and gas industry generates more than 22 million gallons of wastewater per year,” he notes, “much of which could be used to help irrigate the arid regions where oil and gas are harvested.”

Diversification is a key component to the company’s success, adds T.J. Mothersbaugh, Jim’s son and the industrial sales manager for the company. “We’ve been touching on different areas, but our recent validation has come through large-scale agreements with companies like Halliburton, which will help to further efforts in the other markets.”

Despite the recession, Jim Mothersbaugh expects business to triple in 2011. WaterTectonics had revenue of around $7.5 million in 2010, and contracts for 2011 already exceed $20 million. Gas and oil projects as well as mining cleanups are driving the growth, and both sectors offer projects that can take decades, providing steady revenue for years. The mining projects around Lake Chelan, for example, will require a minimum of 30 years to clean up, and the process may need as long as 50 years.