The Cincinnati company is developing industry-changing wastewater treatment tools.
Wastewater treatment allows us to remove harmful components from water to make it more usable—whether for drinking, irrigation or returning to the environment. The concept is not new; it’s been around for 2000 years and evolved greatly over time The next major evolution in water treatment might be from Water Warriors in Cincinnati, whose foam-based solutions are increasing the capacity of treatment plants while decreasing their impact on the environment.
“Treatment plants have become extremely stressed out. They’re usually landlocked with neighborhoods built around them, and the population has only gone up. They need to increase their capacity while meeting stricter regulations,” said John Gradek, CEO of Water Warriors. “We created this incredibly porous, open-celled foam, shaped kind of like a big seaweed, which can be placed in a treatment pond to collect bacteria and remove nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, which cause harmful algae blooms.”
Water Warriors’ waving foam technology was developed by Dr. Rakesh Govind, the company’s CTO and a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Cincinnati. The technology helps treatment plants meet effluent limitations, or guidelines set forth by the EPA on the levels of acceptable chemicals in water for it to be safely released from a facility. Since it’s so porous, the foam hardly displaces water, and allows plants to treat more water in less time compared to current technologies.
“Most treatment plants are using plastic materials that sit at the top of treatment lagoons and displace water, so they’re really only working at about 60% capacity,” said Gradek. “Our product is 98% air and it’s coated so that it signals the bacteria to produce sucrose, a sugar that bacteria use to attach to things. Where traditional wastewater lagoon materials might have 2000-3000 bacteria milligrams per liter, our foam pillars have about 42,000.”
The technology is currently in use in the Wareham, Massachusetts Water Pollution Control Facility on Cape Cod. They turned to Water Warriors in the face of tighter regulations on nitrate and phosphorus output. Water Warriors is helping the facility double its current capacity of 1.56 million gallons of water per day without increasing the footprint of the plant facility itself.
Water Warriors’ has been lauded for its technology, first being awarded an Environmental Protection Product of the Year award in the Waste Water category and then being granted the 2017 Cool Tech Award by Cincy Magazine. To top it off, they were accepted into the prestigious Pipeline H2O water technology accelerator operated by The Hamilton Mill, a southwest Ohio regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier.
Water Warriors is a member of Pipeline H2O’s second class. Companies from around the world, including Australia and England, travel to southwest Ohio to speed up their paths towards market. Gradek says inclusion in the program is helping open doors for the water technology company.
“It’s been intense, but really beneficial for us. The Pipeline program is helping us get the word out to the right organizations, the right municipalities, to say, ‘Hey, this stuff works,’” said Gradek. “We’re really excited about taking this company to the next level in the rest of 2018 and beyond.”