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Hydroviv lends Flint a helping hand

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DC-based water filtration startup aims to assist city in crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. By now, you've likely heard about the ongoing struggles in Flint, Michigan regarding their drinking water situation. Thousands upon thousands of people are struggling to find water that is safe.

However, as in most crises in this country, there are people who want to help.

One such person is Dr. Eric Roy. He's a chemist based in the nation's capital, though he has an extensive connection to the state of Maine he grew up here and attended Colby College as an undergrad before getting his PhD from the University of Maine. He's also the founder of Hydroviv, a startup that has been making impressive inroads in the world of water filtration. While Hydroviv has seen its share of successes in the brief time since it began, Dr. Roy has found himself putting the business side of things on the back burner so that he might make his own contributions to help alleviate the crisis in Flint.

According to Dr. Roy, it all came together in an extremely organic way.

'Let's put it this way - our initial involvement wasn't graceful or planned,' said Roy.'This summer, we were scrambling to get our Tailored Tapwater prototypes together and tested, and the news about Flint was starting to make some waves in the policy community. At this point, this was months before the municipality acknowledged that there was a problem, so filters hadn't been given out yet.'

Rather than simply wait for something to happen, Roy and Hydroviv took action.

'[Eventually], we just started reaching out to organizations in Flint and shipping them our prototypes,' he said.'They were hideous, but they worked, and people were extremely grateful.In late September, the government finally started acknowledging that there was a problem and vowed to fix it by buying and distributing filters to affected residents to help 'bridge the gap' to when they could get back on Detroit's water, a process that was supposed to take a couple of weeks.'

Only it turns out that a couple of weeks has become months. Officials greatly underestimated the amount of corrosion that had taken place, meaning that the problem still has not been fixed. Meanwhile, thanks to Hydroviv's social media efforts including the #FiltersForFlint more and more people have been reaching out in an effort to help the company do what it can.

'Just last week, I got a cold-call from a woman in Memphis who found us because of our #FiltersForFlint hashtag,' Roy said. '[She was] asking if Hydroviv would help her connect people who are requesting filters with people who are looking to help. I basically said That sounds great.' We have multiple donation promotions going on already with our existing customers.As of today, we've already moved a number of units through this coordinated donation program.'

Roy has always been interested in the nature of water he did water quality studies in Maine lakes during his undergraduate years, while his doctoral research was focused on aquatic chemistry and developing new methods of detecting chemicals in water. He has done water work in his post-academic career as well. With all that, it's no surprise that he might have a brainchild such as Hydroviv.

As to what Hydroviv actually does, one might call it customizable water filtration.

'Different places have different things in their water,' he said.'For example, a good number of wells in Maine have high arsenic concentrations because of the region's geology.Let's contrast that with Washington DC, whose water is arsenic-free but it is heavily chlorinated so disinfection byproducts like trahalomethanes and haloacetic acids can form. From a filtration standpoint, these scenarios should be handled completely differently, but the well-known filtration products sell the same thing to both people.

'What Hydroviv does is a bit different,' he continued.'When a customer orders our Tailored Tapwater System, the first thing that we do is assess their local water.Once we figure out what's there, we build the filter to match their water. For the customer, this means that their filter will actually address problems that they are having with their water.'

Obviously, this is the sort of product that could help the people of Flint tremendously. However, Hydroviv is still in the startup stages of things and so Roy can't do nearly as much as he might otherwise like. Still, when we asked him what kind of impact even one filtration system could have, his response was a positive one.

'It's funny that you ask that, because I've asked the same thing to myself many times,' he said.'Hydroviv is a small company, so we don't have the reach, funds, or capacity to help a ton of people.With that said, we give all that we can, and are truly honored to make a real difference in the lives of the people that we are able to reach. We are also extremely humbled by our customers and donors who have contributed to this cause. Our users describe it to us as a sigh of relief,' because such a large chunk of their everyday life was spent figuring out how to get drinking water.'

The people of Flint have to devote considerable time and energy to the simple task of finding water that is safe to drink. Think about that the next time you turn on the faucet and what comes out isn't brown or bad-smelling or packed with harmful chemicals; there are people out there who aren't so lucky.

Hydroviv might still be in its beginnings, but Dr. Roy is ready to do what he can. In cases like this one, any effort is better than no effort.

If you have questions about how you can contribute toward the company's Flint efforts or would like to learn more about Hydroviv and its products, visit their website at hydroviv.com.

Last modified on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 19:05

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