Science Wednesday:Innovation for Clean Water

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

Recently, I sat down with Sally Gutierrez, EPA’s Chief of the Environmental Innovation Technology Cluster Development and Support Program, located in Cincinnati, OH. She oversees the Water Technology Innovation Cluster, a public-private partnership covering Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana.

Over the last year, the Water Cluster has had significant impact on the way we view water research and water technology commercialization. Gutierrez said, “The region has attracted many emerging small water technology businesses, resulting in several cooperative research agreements and technical assistance from EPA researchers, as well as Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to small businesses developing new technologies to keep our water clean.”

Three of those Small Business awards went to regional companies such as UES, Inc located in Dayton, Ohio. According to Gutierrez, they are developing a real-time In-line sensor for wastewater monitoring. This new technology will be able to detect biological agents and toxins in our water supply in real-time. Something that, if successful, would redefine the way we monitor our wastewater and provide utilities, and EPA, a new way to prevent contaminants from reaching our water.

Speaking of contaminants in our water, Faraday Technology, also in Ohio, is developing a new microelectrode array technology that will enable multiple contaminant monitoring in drinking water, wastewater, surface water and ground water according to Gutierrez.

And with our freshwater resources dwindling, Okeanos Technologies, in northern Kentucky, is developing an innovative new way to take the salt out of saltwater. “Their desalination system uses ion concentration polarization elements and modular arrays,” Sally adds. “This technology takes a really innovative approach to desalination that uses less energy and along with the salt, removes multiple contaminants, including trace contaminants, from water which is of great interest to EPA.”

The impact these small businesses could potentially have on our water supply and even our economy as they grow and create jobs is tremendous. These companies, and the other SBIR winners, are great examples of how a public-private partnership works in developing new technologies to keep our water safe.

As we celebrate 40 years of the Clean Water Act, it’s important to note that the challenges we face today are more subtle and more complex than they were 40 years ago. It’s great that the Water Cluster is looking for new technologies, more innovative and sustainable solutions to make sure that our water supplies are safe and clean for future generations.

About the author: Lahne Mattas-Curry is a communications specialist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s Note: To hear Sally Gutierrez talk about the exciting innovations flowing out of the Water Cluster, listen to the latest Science Matters podcast.