Government, Manufacturing, and Sustainability

Water tech company’s fish-friendly screens save lives

With new EPA guidelines looming, Holland company could see uptick in orders.

March 4, 2016
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The intake water screen is built primarily in Holland and results in a less than 5 percent mortality rate for fish and their larvae. Courtesy Evoqua

Fish all over the world can thank a group of employees in Holland, Michigan, for keeping them alive.

Global company Evoqua Water Technologies provides fish-friendly intake screens built primarily in Holland to municipal and industrial clients, which the company says have resulted in a less than 5 percent mortality rate for fish and their larvae.

Evoqua builds water treatment systems and a host of related products and installs them for customers around the world. The company employs 4,000 workers globally.

The company’s Holland facility, located at 2155 112th Ave. and home to approximately 170 employees, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The facility houses Evoqua’s Separation Technologies Division, which includes its dewatering and intake systems.

Mirka Wilderer, vice president and general manager of Evoqua’s Separation Technologies Division, explained that, in the past, when a power plant or industrial facility sucked in water as part of its operations, fish often died in the process.

Wanting to improve their survival rate, Evoqua began creating fish-friendly intake screens in the 1970s with the help of Joseph Ristroph, who created what is known as the Ristroph design for the company.

Over time, Ristroph’s original design has been modified to further improve its ability to protect fish and their larvae. The result is the Modified Ristroph design used today.

The catch-and-release system utilizes fine mesh screens and nonmetallic baskets that trap fish and carry them safely through the system, then releases them back into their original water source.

The company reported, “Independent lab testing of over 19,000 fish across 10 species reported mortality rates less than 5 percent, thanks to the intake screens.”

That rate exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency standards, according to Wilderer, and has made Evoqua’s intake screens one of only a handful of products called out by the EPA as “best available technology.”

That designation could impact Evoqua’s bottom line over the next several years.

A new rule from the EPA — Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act, introduced in 2014 — requires that “the location, design, construction and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact.”

Evoqua hasn’t experienced a surge in product orders yet, but Wilderer said there is still time. She noted power plants have two years to evaluate their options and five years to comply with the EPA requirement.

“The first product (order) since the EPA ruling was one of ours,” she added, mentioning there will be some early adopters to the new regulations.

Evoqua’s fish-friendly intake systems are engineered at the company’s site in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, but 90 percent of the intake screens are manufactured in the Holland facility and 100 percent are assembled there.

The Holland facility is a major manufacturing operation for the company. Besides the intake screens, it makes several other products for the company and has installations across the globe.

Wilderer noted Evoqua’s Holland facility does a lot of business in the areas of industrial waste and odor control.

Wilderer said the company’s overall goal is to protect the world’s water supply.

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