Patents, Potash, and the Water Treatment Processes

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – August 7, 2013 – 1 Comment

Just last week, you may have overlooked a significant anniversary…no, not your parents’ wedding anniversary…Back on July 31, 1790, the U.S. Patent Office opened its doors. The first patent – signed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – was issued to Samuel Hopkins of Vermont for a new method of making pearl ash and potash. In addition to the historic first patent, Hopkins also took out two others in his lifetime – both for a preparation of mustard flour.

At American Water, we’re big fans of patents and innovation, and we’re proud to be continuing the tradition of Mr. Hopkins with a few patents of our own – albeit in a slightly different industry. We’ve been awarded a patent for NPXpress, which provides a more affordable and sustainable way of treating sewage, and we filed for two more patents for this technology. We’ve also filed a patent for a coagulation recovery technology, and for a UV disinfection system for pipes just recently. In addition, we have three patents for our cryptosporidium research. Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis. It is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among humans in the United States.

While we love innovation, we’re just not that into cryptosporidium…

When it comes to the quality of water, there is no room for compromise. In 1981, we established a formal research and development program, with the goal of improving water quality and operational effectiveness in all areas of our business. Our Belleville, Illinois research laboratory has a history of being on the forefront of monitoring, testing, identifying and controlling contaminants before specific federal regulations are even put in place. In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency regularly taps into our lab and our research team to help develop federal drinking water standards and regulations.

Additionally, our local labs test water samples many times each day as water moves throughout the treatment process. Our research experts are located in two of our New Jersey locations, our corporate headquarters in Voorhees and at our water treatment plant in Delran. Each year, we conduct more than one million tests and measurements using the most advanced technology and equipment available.

Since 1993 our research team has won over a dozen awards for best research, nearly 60 competitive research grants, and has been granted three patents for our research. And while awards and recognition are great, our true purpose when it comes to research falls in line with the role of the U.S. Patent office; ”to promote the progress of science.” From anesthesia (1846), to pasteurization (1873), to the automobile airbag (1968) patents have been allowing science to flourish, improving safety for the last 223 years. We’re honored to be a part of that tradition and look forward to many more years of progressing science to provide the safest drinking water possible.

1 Comment

  • Ann Alfano says:

    Dear Dr. Water, WOW, I’m impressed! Congratulations on your team for winning so many awards and for the patents. And while Cryptosporidium may not be a popular “cocktail party” topic, the research and patents relating to it are important and probably taken for granted. Most people don’t understand the true value of water services and all that goes into the process. I’m proud to work for American Water. Thanks for the information and keep up the great work!