Howell Labs products helping to bring fresh water to Japan’s people

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

A Bridgton business is helping to bring fresh drinking water to the earthquake-beleaguered people of Japan, in the form of water purification equipment that

CUTLINE: Howe Engineering Company’s “Mixed-Oxidant Elecrolytic Disinfectant Generator” is capable of purifying 400,000 gallons of drinking water a day, and is being used by the U. S. Navy to provide fresh drinking water to earthquake-plagued Japan.

services the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.

It’s a little-known fact that Howell Laboratories, Inc., just outside downtown Bridgton on the top of Route 117, is one of the top suppliers of water purification technology equipment to the U.S. Navy, and that about half of its business is through government contracts. When the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan was ordered March 12 to lead a task force to help with relief efforts in Japan, it carried in its hold water that was kept purified by four “Mixed-Oxidant Electrolytic Disinfectant Generators” (MEDGs) manufactured by the 60 employees who work at the Bridgton plant.

“It feels good,” said Paul Wescott, the company’s president and chief executive officer, of the contribution Howell Labs is making in the wake of the devastating March 11 tsunami that hit Japan following one of the largest earthquakes ever reported. Howell’s generators were also used on aircraft carriers sent on relief missions to Haiti after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit there. In fact, Wescott said, “We had a technician on board who took a side trip to Haiti and was stuck there for a week.”

Howell’s generators, which produce a mixed oxidant that purifies the water, are in use on most of the United States’ aircraft carriers, as well as many of the Navy’s Destroyer-class warships and San Antonio-class amphibious transport ships. Howell’s Model 7060 generators are capable of purifying up to 400,000 gallons of drinking water a day — a very large amount indeed.

“One of the features of our equipment that are of appeal in a disaster situation is the fact that they can produce large quantities of fresh drinking water,” Wescott said. In non-disaster situations, the generators are used to keep the water that’s used by those who serve aboard the aircraft carriers pure and ready to drink. Once the water is made from seawater by a process of reverse osmosis, it is stored in large storage tanks aboard ship, and Howell’s generators have the job of keeping that water purified by killing bacteria and preventing algae formation.

Howell Labs has a history of almost half a century of developing and servicing shipboard machinery for Navy and commercial maritime applications, according to its website. It has a proven track record of adapting commercial technology and successfully introducing it to the Navy. “We know the system and the right approaches,” said Wescott. It is also a long-time leader in supplying dehydrators to the Navy, and regularly seeks to team up with other firms around the world that have innovative technology to treat water for both commercial and military applications.

Wescott said the company, which also owns Shively Labs, a worldwide supplier of FM antennas and related RF products, has been doing some major improvements to its Route 117 plant over the past six months. Last fall, the company put on a new roof and repaved its parking lot. Soundproofing work was also done to the inside of the building and there have been some new equipment purchases.

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