In the beginning, they filtered dirty water through sand. Sometimes it's still done that way, but in 1956 scientists at UCLA first successfully experimented with cleaning water by using a membrane instead.

It wasn't until about 20 years ago that the membrane method really started catching on at waste water treatment plants and other facilities. The membranes do a good job, but they are expensive.

Enter a new local company which right now is scaling up a demonstration plant to test a new membrane that could make the market pay attention. "It would meet or exceed the performance of existing membranes, but at half the price," says John Tomescu, CEO of Fibracast Ltd. in Ancaster. It employs 10 people.

 

The market is worldwide, says Fibracast CEO John Tomescu.

The province must believe Fibracast has promise. It has just granted the company a $1.3 million forgivable loan to develop this new filter. Such membranes are flat plastic sheets, but the Fibracast model would incorporate hollow-fibre technology. It should lead to clear, clean water coming out the other side, but with that big cost saving. The market, Tomescu says, is worldwide.

He had been working on this in California, but the research funding just wasn't available there. The Ontario government - after a year and a half of technical and financial screening - decided it would grant that loan.

The testing should take a year. If Fibracast then goes ahead and builds a new manufacturing plant in Ontario, it will not have to pay back the loan. That facility means 60 new jobs. Tomescu says there's an 80-per-cent likelihood the plant would be built in Greater Hamilton.