AquaMetals has eco-friendly way to prevent toxic discharge into waterways

By Gabriel Merkow

AquaMetals is bringing continuous, real-time data to the metal waste prevention industry.

The Wisconsin-based advanced manufacturing company has made it possible for businesses to control chemical treatment of toxic metals in real time, while monitoring the risk for pollution. President Bruce Bathurst and partner Tom Dougherty created the company in 2016 to help control and measure the concentration of heavy metals in flowing water.

Businesses that discharge heavy metals into public waterways are required to meet government-regulated environmental standards to avoid legal and financial repercussions.

Companies often rely on taking samples of discharge water and analyzing them with expensive lab equipment. These results are not measured in real time, and as a result discharge water could have already enter public waterways.

AquaMetals aims to improve that process. Bathurst created this technology with the help of four UW-Milwaukee graduate students and two UW-Milwaukee professors.

“This makes it possible to control industrial processes in real-time with maximum efficiency and minimum risk,” Bathurst said. “The measurement technology has the potential to save global industries billions of dollars in treatment costs and at the same time improve the quality of the environment with continuous monitoring.”

Bathurst also commented on the durability and reliability of the analyzers’ sensors, saying “the sensors last about six months before accuracy degrades, depending on the application. Sensor films are then replaced by the user in the field as part of scheduled maintenance.”

The bottom line is that with this first-of-its-kind technology, a company can control the chemical treatment of toxic discharge more efficiently than they ever could. The online analyzer can reduce treatment costs by 50 percent and reduce the risk of a pollution event by 90 percent.

AquaMetals has introduced its analyzer to more than 25 potential users in the Midwest.

Prototypes will be installed for trial in February 2019, with products being sold in the United States in early 2020 and globally by 2022.

Additionally, AquaMetals plans to sell 25 measurement systems in 2019 to Midwest-based companies. The average price for a measurement system will be $10,000, which compares to the current waste-measuring instrument costs of about $30,000 with labor costs bringing the price up to about $80,000 per year.

AquaMetals LLC has been selected as one of 25 finalists in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which will conclude June 5-6 at Union South in Madison, Wisconsin. It will be among 12 presenting companies in the “Diligent Dozen” section of the conference.

–Merkow recently graduated after studying Life Sciences Communication and Environmental Studies at the UW-Madison.