Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Penn State grad uses his environmental science degree to create a floating (and growing) bioremediation business

Colin Lennox put his Penn State degree in environmental science and English (product development and marketing) to good use when he created floating hydroponic mats that pull contaminants out of water bodies. His first big success was with treating acid mine drainage. On the horizon: a unit for cannabis growers. Altoona Mirror reporter Walt Frank has the interesting details--Editor

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / Bioremediation sales representative Andrew Gentry (left) and EcoIslands LLC creator Colin Lenox showcase a piece of solar pump cleaning technology at a pond near Duncansville on Oct. 31.

Colin Lennox wanted to do his own thing and “didn’t want to work for anybody.”
So, in 2010, he put his Penn State degrees in environmental studies and English to use and created EcoIslands LLC, which sold floating islands, hydroponic growth mats that clean water by pulling nutrients out of ponds.
Lennox, 39, admits following the recession was not the greatest time to start a business, which is housed in his home near Penn State Altoona.
“We only sold three floating islands. I did environmental landscaping, anything to keep me outside,” Lennox said.
Lennox carried on and his bioremediation company got involved with acid mine drainage cleanup in 2012.
“We clean acid mine drainage by building wetlands in a box,” he said. “Wetlands are catalyzed by microbes and efficiently cleans mine drainage. If you build wetlands in a box, you can do any bioremediation process that natural wetlands can. The elements are directly affected by microbes.”
Lennox has done work for the Clearfield Creek Water Association.
“He installed one of the first of his metal removal systems at the Glasgow treatment system where the Clearfield Creek Watershed Association had recently overseen an upgrade of an earlier treatment system. His unique experimental system extracted mainly manganese from the partially treated water, and showed great success,” said Arthur Rose, a retired Penn State professor, geochemist and advisor to the association.
Rose said Lennox’s technology represents a new and different approach to mine drainage treatment and has been able to remove a variety of metals – iron, manganese, aluminum, and others — from some very bad water.
“His methods are being recognized as a significant new approach for treating acid mine drainage and other contaminated waters. CCWA is currently collaborating with Colin on testing the removal of iron from a very high-iron acid drainage at our Klondike site near Ashville,” Rose said.
Rose also said Lennox’s technology is not a testing method, it is a treatment method.
Today, acid mine drainage work makes up 85-90 of his business, Lennox said.
“We sell wetlands bioreactors; there are different sizes. In 2017, we started going smaller in size, building 100-gallon bioreactors for home agriculture and demos, but we make them as large as 1,800 gallons,” Lennox said.
EcoIslands LLC received the Technology Award from the Blair County Chamber of Commerce in both 2012 and 2013.
The business received funding from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners in 2014 and 2016. The $50,000 in 2016 was to support its sales and marketing efforts, while also making engineering improvements to its system.
“It has been incredibly important, it got us through our mid-stage generation of bioreactors. The design was good but need improvements. We now have a production unit to produce bioreactor metal removal units, which are very advanced and capable of an enormous microbial diversity, which means a huge array of purposes and markets,” Lennox said.

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