Company Expanding Ultrapure Water Facility

Madison-based Total Water Treatment Systems Inc., one of the biggest suppliers of ultrapure water treatment systems in the Midwest, quenches thirst for ultrapure water

Biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, water technology and university research are all promising segments of the Wisconsin economy — and all need a special ingredient to stay in business:

Water that is so ultra-purified and sterile that it will never exist in nature and humans are not even advised to drink it.

So it's little surprise Madison-based Total Water Treatment Systems Inc., one of the biggest suppliers of ultrapure water treatment systems in the Midwest, has been in expansion mode.

Total Water was launched decades ago but began a sustained boom as Madison became a center of university-driven bioscience industries and, more recently, as Milwaukee saw rapid growth in its water research and water-tech industries.

Like Milwaukee, Total Water sees itself as part of the global growth in demand for infrastructure that can treat, monitor and pump water. "We've been growing about $1 million a year," and is now at $15 million in annual revenue, said Jeffrey Lee, a senior executive at the employee-owned company.

In 2003, it moved into a larger headquarters in Madison as it began to build water treatment reactors for the fast-growing companies related to biosciences, genomes, stem cells and drug manufacturing. It installed the ultrapure water infrastructure inside the city's Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery, the massive University of Wisconsin-Madison research facility.

Metro Milwaukee became the next high-growth market, and the company added a satellite office in Menomonee Falls two years ago. Today, its systems are installed at the city's Medical College of Wisconsin, the BloodCenter of Wisconsin, the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences and a score of other institutions.

Milwaukee's seven-story Global Water Center, headquarters for the city's water-tech initiative and home to multiple university labs, also has one of Total Water's water treatment systems.

Across the state, Wisconsin hospitals, dialysis centers, food processors and makers of medical disinfectants and other cleaners have Total Water installations, according to a roster supplied by the company. Its next ambition is to branch across the Midwest, and it already has opened facilities in Illinois and Iowa, Lee said.

Apart from the unusual shape of the pointy spigots in laboratories — fashioned to accommodate plastic lab tubing and impossible to confuse with drinking-water taps — the elaborate water systems are seldom visible to the visitors to the facilities that use them.

But what they all have in common is a sequence of equipment and gauges that combine just about every form of water treatment that exists. A typical reactor will run the same stream of water though multiple stages of nano-filters, reverse osmosis membranes, activated carbon filters, ultraviolet disinfection and de-ionization. By the end of the process, there's not a single mineral, bacteria or micro-particle left.

The skills are unique, and it can take two years to fully train a technician to build and maintain ultrapure water systems. The company now has 60 staff, up from 50 three years ago, Lee said.

Source: Journal Sentinel

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