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HAYDEN, Idaho – The cutting-edge, million dollar wastewater research facility in Hayden is not the only one in the country, but, notes Remy Newcombe, “We are the only one we know of at a working municipal wastewater treatment plant.”
Newcombe, a 2003 engineering graduate of the University of Idaho, is an environmental engineer and geophysicist, cofounder and chief technology officer of Blue Water Technologies Inc. She also is co-inventor of the patented Blue PRO technology Blue Water Technologies employs. She was part of a team of researchers – which included University of Idaho professor of food science and toxicology Greg Moller – that devised the technology while Newcombe worked toward her doctorate in civil engineering. The University of Idaho technology was licensed to the company in 2003.
The Blue PRO filtration system uses sand coated with iron oxide as a filtering agent. The coated sand bonds with and separates phosphorus, arsenic and heavy metals from wastewater.
Too much phosphorus causes excessive algae growth that diminishes water quality, kills fish and compromises aquatic ecosystems. Blue PRO technology lowers phosphorus levels from 3,000 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb – an astounding 99.7 percent reduction. In addition, the technology can meet the new drinking water maximum contaminant level for arsenic of 10 ppb. While the original technology does not seem like it could be much improved upon, there have been significant advancements since its introduction. The Hayden research facility accommodates both Blue Water Technologies research and University of Idaho research on advanced water treatment processes.
“The facility, built in 2005, has allowed us to demonstrate the technology at full scale and develop several process improvements, and to file new patents pending on additional processing equipment,” said Newcombe. “We have developed product lines aimed at different scales – from in-the-ground concrete installations processing multi-million gallons a day to very small, skid-mounted mobile units for smaller developments or decentralized waste water treatment.”
Not only has Blue Water Technologies honed the Blue PRO system to suit multiple venues, they also have expanded the applications of the technology to filter metals and newly emerging contaminants, including endocrine disrupting chemicals that mimic hormones and can harm the reproduction and development of organisms, including humans. “The research facility has allowed us to test new technologies for these other applications,” said Newcombe.
As the filtration system has evolved, so has business. Last September, Blue Water Technologies acquired a subsidiary, Applied Process Technology Inc., a Texas-based filter manufacturer. In the past four years they also have established a nationwide manufacturer’s representative network, and their Hayden staff has grown from four employees to 14. “We first started out working out of our homes,” said Newcombe. “Now we have 20,000 square feet of office and shop space for fabrication, assembly and inventory.”
In 2005, the company was cited as one of the top 100 Technology Transfer Companies and as a top 25 “Innovator Changing the World,” by the non-profit Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM). Currently, Blue Water equipment is installed at 220 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. The technology offers immediate and long-term solutions to water pollution.
“I think it’s vital to work toward sustainable solutions for our interaction with the environment, and we strive to increase the sustainability of our products,” said Newcombe. “We use very simple materials and try to minimize the waste production from our processes. It’s really based on sand and iron – simple, green materials.”