Margaret Lengerich is the co-founder and CEO of HMSolution, a company developing a faucet-mounted filter to remove arsenic and other contaminants from groundwater. Constanza, her sister, serves as the company’s co-founder and chief marketing officer.
Margaret and Constanza Lengerich spoke with Providence Business News about their company, their participation as a regional semifinalist in the Cleantech Open and plans for the future.
PBN: How significant is the problem of arsenic and heavy-metal contamination in groundwater worldwide? How does it occur, and are certain geographic areas more prone to dangerous contamination levels than others?
LENGERICH and LENGERICH: In the world, 150 million people are affected by arsenic drinking water contamination, and in the U.S., 13 million people. Arsenic occurs in groundwater from natural geological formations, and can also be the result of agricultural and industrial activities. The occurrence and concentrations of arsenic in groundwater depends mainly on the composition of the bedrock. In Bangladesh, levels of arsenic can reach 1,000 parts per billion where the safety level established by the World Health Organization is 10 ppb.
PBN: How did HMSolution grow into the company it is today from its beginnings as a technology developed at Brown University?
LENGERICH and LENGERICH: HMSolution was born from Margaret’s masters capstone project at Brown University where she and her team found a commercial application and developed a business plan to commercialize a new technology to remove arsenic from water. In an effort to continue working at HMSolution, Margaret applied to grants and we were granted $25,000 from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and $40,000 from Start-Up Chile Incubator. Most of it has been invested in product development.
PBN: What other solutions exist for removing arsenic and heavy metal contamination from groundwater, and how does HMSolution’s technology do it cheaper?
LENGERICH and LENGERICH: Homeowners with arsenic problems have to buy an under-the-sink or whole house system that have a purchasing cost from $400 to $1,500. Moreover, most of these systems can treat a limited amount of contaminants. We decided to apply our technology to a faucet-mounted filter because is user-friendlier, the filter can be easily replaced, and is inexpensive since the overall cost considering the purchasing and maintenance for homeowners is significantly lower, removing not only arsenic, but 15 other heavy metals as well.
PBN: HMSolution was recently named a semifinalist in the Cleantech Open. What would winning the competition mean for your company?
LENGERICH and LENGERICH: Winning the competition will allow our company continue growing, demonstrate we have the right team to succeed, and reaffirm the potential of our technology to solve an important problem that affects the health of millions of people in a profitable way.
PBN: What markets are you targeting first for HMSolution’s faucet-mounted filter, and what markets do you hope to expand into as the company grows?
LENGERICH and LENGERICH: Our first target market is the families living in 41 states of the U.S. who are affected by the arsenic drinking water contamination, and cannot afford an expensive water filtration system. After we established ourselves in the residential market we want to tackle the municipal and industrial needs. Our technology can also be applied in the industrial market such as the beverage and mining; the copper and gold mining operations has yet to solve the arsenic contamination produced as a byproduct in their processes and through the water sources.