Concern over water quality has swelled in the Flathead Valley. Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus reintroduced the North Fork Watershed Protection Act in February, calling on Congress to prevent future mineral development along the Flathead River. The WasteNot Project, a partnership between the Flathead County Landfill and the nonprofit Citizens for a Better Flathead, recently installed two new drop boxes for unwanted pharmaceuticals in Columbia Falls and Whitefish.
Local inventor and entrepreneur Paul Doran has a somewhat different approach to the problem. He recently began marketing what he calls the Fountain of Life, a water filtration appliance about the size of a trash compactor.
"We've basically designed the ultimate water system," Doran says.
In trying to establish his niche in the Flathead water quality scene, Doran recently reached out to a number of groups to spread the word about his product. Mike Koopal, executive director of the nonprofit Whitefish Lake Institute, was connected with Doran through the Whitefish-based biorefinery Algae Aquaculture Technology. After touring Doran's facility, Koopal believes the Fountain of Life looks "promising" and could be a "viable alternative" for homeowners drawing water directly from sources like Whitefish Lake.
Doran's had a passion for clean water for the better part of two decades. Earlier forays into water ionization technology—using positively and negatively charged electrodes to purify water—didn't meet Doran's expectations, so he set out to "design a better mousetrap" for pollutants. What he came up with, he says, is a combination of ionization, ultraviolet purification and mineral filtration that strips water of any impurities. Doran is currently constructing the systems himself out of his office on Wisconsin Avenue in Whitefish.
"We've got about five or six of them sold now, and we just started doing this the first of this year," says Doran, who led a workshop on water sciences at the Inland Northwest Permaculture Conference last year.
Doran adds his business partners haven't agreed on a set price for the system yet, but estimates the cost to be around $6,000.