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CHAPEL HILL … Entex, a Chapel-Hill based start-up selling advanced wastewater treatments, is raising a first round it hopes will reach $1.5 million from angel investors, Wayne Flournoy, president and co-founder tells Local Tech Wire.

The company, which launched in May, won an exclusive license to a unique, patented Bio-Web “fixed-film” technology for advanced wastewater treatment from Apex Mills in June.

A specialty warp knit textile maker, Apex Mills developed the fabric-based Bio-Web in consultation with wastewater treatment professionals in the mid-1990s and patented the technology in 1998. Eight facilities around the United States, including one in Greensboro, currently use the Bio-Web tech. Based in Inwood, New York, Apex has mills in Bangor, PA, and Graham, NC. It makes a variety of other highly specialized fabric products.

The Bio-Web technology is used in what the wastewater treatment industry calls “Integrated Fixed-film Activated Sludge, or IFFAS. Essentially, we’re making bug condos that provide a home for the technology that actually does the treatment work,” Flournoy explains. “It’s a fixed medium the bugs attach to.”

Mud to sand

Inserted into existing treatment facilities on self-contained frames, the Bio-Webs boost effectiveness without increasing the size of concrete basins. “A lot of these guys are landlocked and the cost of these systems is substantially less than just putting in more tanks. An added benefit is that increases the stability and performance of the older methods as well,” says Flournoy.

Changing the mix of the biology going on in the basin helps settle out the waste on the back end, he adds. “That makes operation of the plants infinitely easier. It has to do with how the bacteria collect. When they collect in a dense pattern on Bio-Web, they drop out quickly like sand. When less dense, there is a lot more water in them and it’s more like mud,” Flournoy says.

According to Flournoy, Entex is the only advanced wastewater treatment company offering both the fixed and fluid-based IFFS technologies. “We’re also seeking patents on methods to do both more effectively,” he adds. “There’s a commercial advantage to having both. It means we can have discussions with all the potential customers for this. Others get doors closed on them once a facility decides to go with one technology.”

Better than planned

The fluidized system uses devices that “look like little pinwheels and float freely in the basin,” he says. “As the only player with both, we think we’ll have a substantial leg up in the marketplace.”

Flournoy says Entex has another advantage — he and his co-founder, Dick Pehrson, executive vice president, have been in the wastewater treatment business so long, “we have better access than most.”

Flournoy says they started Entex because “I saw a huge increase in interest in the IFFS technology. There are three sessions about it at this year’s national trade show, which is almost unheard of.” Entex will have a booth at the upcoming show in New Orleans Oct. 2 through 6.

Thus far, “Things are going better than we planned,” he says. “We have two solid prospects we expect to close in 2005, and two to four additional ones for which we have high expectations.” The two solid prospects are for sole-source projects just under a million each, which are typical, Flournoy notes.

He says other somewhat larger IFFS systems sold for $3 million and $4.5 million in 2004.

The company is virtual now but will open a staffed office in Chapel Hill when Pehrson moves down from his current residence in PA. Flournoy says he expects the company will grow to 20 people over a three to five year period.

Entex: www.entexinc.com