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posted: 1/20/2017 1:00 AM

Huntley start up taps into solving global water issue

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  • Huntley-based Pidge Industries developed and patented the Personal Advanced Oxidation Water Treatment Device.

    Huntley-based Pidge Industries developed and patented the Personal Advanced Oxidation Water Treatment Device.

  • Huntley-based Pidge Industries developed and patented the Personal Advanced Oxidation Water Treatment Device.

    Huntley-based Pidge Industries developed and patented the Personal Advanced Oxidation Water Treatment Device.

  • Huntley-based Pidge Industries developed and patented the Personal Advanced Oxidation Water Treatment Device.

    Huntley-based Pidge Industries developed and patented the Personal Advanced Oxidation Water Treatment Device.

  • Michael J. Fleck

    Michael J. Fleck

 
 

Michael J. Fleck believes his product can help change the world.

And he hopes January will be a turning point for the Huntley-based startup company he, his brother and brother-in-law have started.

Fleck and his siblings run Pidge Industries, which has developed and patented the Personal Advanced Oxidation Water Treatment Device. It treats contaminated water through an advanced oxidation process, according to Fleck, Pidge's executive vice president and a co-inventor, and produces clean drinking water without chemicals or waste.

Its use can range from giving campers a convenient method for treating water to providing clean drinking water for people in underdeveloped nations or victims of natural or man-made disasters.

The device is still in its prototype phase, Fleck said, but the company is taking two paths in hopes of building interest in the product and providing the company with the funds needed to move it to production.

Pidge took the prototype to the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, with the intention of lining up buyers or investors. They were able to set up exhibition space within CES's Eureka Park, which is described by the Consumer Technology Association as "the flagship startup destination at CES, providing a unique opportunity to launch a new product, service or idea."

It also applied for the MacArthur Foundation's 100&Change grant, which will award $100 million to one recipient for a project that can change the world by addressing a global issue. Pidge was one of more than 1,900 applicants for the grant last summer, and in November found out they passed the administrative review process, which reduced the number of applicants to 800. The company will find out this month if they are one of 10 semifinalists.

"We realize it's a long shot but we have a good project," Fleck said. "We've got a good idea, we've got a solution to some thing that impacts people now. If you don't have fresh drinking water, you don't live."

Fleck said the idea for the device came from discussions with his brother-in-law, John A. "Sandy" Pidgeon, Jr., who is a retired Navy SEAL. Pidgeon said soldiers on missions would often have to carry their own drinking water or use chemicals to treat water, which left behind waste.

"We thought you could probably make something that would fit in a backpack. That was the impetus for this whole thing," said Fleck, who has worked previously as a chemist and an environmental lawyer.

Fleck, with Pidgeon and brother Bryan C. Fleck, created Pidge with the idea of developing the device. After receiving patents, they were able to create a prototype that can treat a gallon of water in about 10-12 minutes, he said.

"We like to compare it to brewing a cup of coffee in the morning," Fleck said.

The device generates very strong oxidants "millions of times stronger than chlorine," Fleck said, but the oxidants don't linger in the water like chlorine.

"After the water sits a minute, you don't even smell ozone in water," he said.

The humanitarian potential of the device is the motivator of the Pidge team.

Ideally, Fleck said they would like to manufacture the device in the U.S., and preferably in the Chicago area.

"We could grow to have a division that deals with disaster relief, we could have a division that deals with military applications, and a division that deals with Third World countries for a very rugged but simple to use device that could allow people to take their water and treat it at point of consumption," he said. "We've got big plans."

"In five years, if we could really be providing jobs in Illinois and producing a product that can be used worldwide -- especially for humanitarian relief -- that would make us very proud."