started out with a mission to solve an environmental problem: water pollution. Its industrial water reclamation system that launched at Municipal Brew Works
in Hamilton on Nov. 22 not only deals with pollution — it’s creating drinkable water and byproduct-based fertilizers, as well as reducing water usage and saving money.
“Breweries use a lot of water, about 10 gallons for every one gallon of beer,” said Katrina Eckard, WEL Enterprise CEO. “We can save at least half of the water they use and eliminate at least 95 percent of the pollutants in it, such as residue from ingredients and piping.”
Because those pollutants are neutralized and turned into a high-grade fertilizer, the brewery doesn’t have to pay a sewer surcharge, and the local water treatment facility doesn’t have to dispose of it. It's a win-win.
WEL Enterprise’s reclamation system is unique in that it addresses reclamation of the entire waste stream, not just water.
“Large industries that require a lot of water, like meat processing, paper mills and steel manufacturing, also generate a lot of waste,” Eckard said. “It takes two components to galvanize steel, water and hydrochloric acid. There’s up to 100,000 gallons of water going down the drain every day. We can recycle not only the water, but also pull the hydrochloric acid out of it and put it back into the process.”
Eckard already has a patent on the industrial segment of the reclamation system. WEL is currently trying to raise $100,000 to test the process at scale, including its software that monitors flow, optimizes the equipment and provides real-time data on usage and savings. Once the process is tested and tweaked, it will be adapted to other settings, including municipal services and even Third World villages.
Corporate and municipal clients are already expressing interest, including a barge-based desalination project.
WEL has been working closely with the Environmental Protection Agency
on research and testing. The Ohio EPA has already certified WEL’s system as a verified system for reclamation. The EPA is also considering tax credits for industries adopting the system, similar to the Energy Star appliance credits available to homeowners.
“We’ve been part of the Hamilton Mill incubator for two months and already have the brewery system designed,” Eckard said. “The progress has been unbelievable. I’m surprised by how much we’ve accomplished working here.”
“Katrina has done really well leveraging the expertise we have in Hamilton,” said Antony Seppi, director of operations at Hamilton Mill
. “Our city-as-lab approach has been a great fit for her. She’s been able to work with the water treatment plant and establish a partnership with Municipal Brew Works.”
In addition to its work at Hamilton Mill, WEL Enterprises is firmly embedded in the Startup Cincy scene. The company is part of Bad Girl Ventures' current LAUNCH class
, is collaborating with 2015 OCEAN graduate SEAREN
on a pilot project at the Hamilton sewer district and has applied to participate in the first Pipeline H2O
, the water-focused accelerator program based at Hamilton Mill, has received over 60 applications from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. It will announce its inaugural class in a few weeks, and the class will begin in February.
“The quality of the applications was top notch,” Seppi said. “The challenge now is to identify the top nine or 10 startups that are addressing the major challenges related to water.”
“Cincinnati will be the Silicon Valley of global water technology, and I’m going to be a part of it,” Eckard added.