Hamilton water-cleaning startup may save money and lives

  • Mike Rutledge
  • Staff Writer
4:00 p.m Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016 Hamilton

The next big thing in water technology may be brewing at the city-run Hamilton Mill business incubator.

Katrina Eckard and her WEL Enterprise company have developed industrial waste-product cleaning technology that can help a wide range of industries, including meat-packing, cheese-processing, steel-making, and also improve processes used by wastewater treatment plants that clean municipal sewage.

But first, Eckard and WEL Enterprise plan to tweak their system by installing a cleansing process at the Municipal Brew Works microbrewery at Hamilton’s former municipal building at 20 High St. — the same building where the company and Hamilton Mill are located.

“My goal is to build a pilot here at the brewery within the next two months, and it will be the first in the world to literally take the worst wastes from industrial processes and turn it into water cleaner than any city line,” Eckard said.

The company has the attention of such organizations as Greater Cincinnati’s Metropolitan Sewer District, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Northern Kentucky’s Sanitation District No. 1. 

“If I could save 100,000 lives through this, that would be everything to me,” Eckard said.

Her systems have two major benefits:

Ryan Welsh, principal engineer in Greater Cincinnati MSD’s Engineering Management Division, is familiar with WEL’s work, and spoke Tuesday evening at a demonstration of the company’s system at Municipal Brew Works.

“It looks very promising for water conservation,” said Welsh, who is from Hamilton and lives in Ross Twp. “We’re very interested in it from that aspect of it, as well as the ability to provide a solution for the treatment of industrial waste.”

Welsh said it’s common for micro-breweries and small beer breweries “to have a water consumption rate of about nine or 10 gallons of water per one gallon of beer.”

WEL is talking about “reducing that by half, to about 4, 4½ gallons of water per gallon of beer,” he said. “That’s significant for water conservation, for cost to the brewery, and it has the potential to provide a wastewater pre-treatment option at the brewery sites.”

Staff Writer
Katrina Eckard, head of WEL Enterprise, wants to help companies worldwide conserve and cleanse water to prevent disease and save money for businesses. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF

With WEL’s cleansing system, which is to be built in the basement below Municipal Brew Works, “they would be cleaning the water within their brewery process, whether they’re using it for washing out kegs, or whether they’re turning it into beer,” Welsh said. “Beer brewing’s a very water-intensive industry. It creates a lot of high-strength waste, which is expensive for treatment plants to treat.”

Antony Seppi, operations director of The Hamilton Mill, said Eckard and WEL have “tons of support” behind them, from such entrepreneurial organizations as Cincinnati-based Bad Girl Ventures, which gives female entrepreneurs access to capital.

“We’re really pushing for the success of Katrina and WEL,” Seppi said. “She’s obviously passionate about what she’s done, and we’re passionate about what she’s doing as well. She’s got our full support of the organization behind her.”

WEL also has applied to be part of the recently launched Pipeline program, also based at Hamilton Mill. Pipeline is a program that helps companies develop their products that involve water- or wastewater technologies. Seppi said more than 60 companies, from as far as Singapore, have applied to be part of the program’s first group of businesses. The applicants that have been accepted to the program, which will operate during the first half of 2017.

“We’re very happy with the pool and the quality of applicants that came in,” Seppi said. “We’re real happy with that.”

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