Kim Mader says she has alleviated her daughter’s autism symptoms by diligently buying organic food and avoiding any foods with synthetic chemicals.

But one concern lingered: the chemicals and heavy metals that can lurk in tap and bottled water.

“I was looking for some way to get cleaner water for my kids,” said Mader, of Scarborough. “Bottled water seems to be no better than tap water, in my opinion.”

Then the mother of three heard about a new Portland-based company called Blue Reserve, a start-up that wants to eliminate bottled water and the heavy lifting required by most office water coolers.

In place of waste-generating and chemical-leaching plastic bottles and jugs, Blue Reserve provides bottle-less water coolers that use a nine-stage, commercial-grade water filtration system.

The filter removes chlorine and fluoride from water, which were a concern for Mader.

“The water is delicious,” Mader said. “My kids and all their friends love it.”

The company was founded last spring by Brandon Pollock and Nick Friedman, who came up with the idea while they were seniors at Colby College.

“We wanted to address our environmental concerns about bottled water,” Pollock said. “We thought it would be easy to solve by providing a straightforward solution. We wanted to use the business as a method to solve a social problem.”

The straightforward solution looks like a standard water cooler, but without the plastic jug. As a result, there is no leaching of the plastic chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, into the water.

BPA is a known endocrine disrupter that has been linked to neurological defects, prenatal problems and obesity. The lack of bottles also reduces shipping of bottled water, cutting oil use.

The sleek water coolers are manufactured by the high-end appliance and electronics company LG.

“LG makes the only cooler that is Energy Star rated,” Pollock said, in reference to the federal government’s seal of approval for energy-efficient products.

The first step in having a Blue Reserve water cooler installed is a visit from the company’s plumber, who will put in a quarter-inch water line, the same type used for ice makers and refrigerators.

“Instead of charging for the cooler and set-up, we charge a monthly fee,” Pollock said.

That fee ranges from $30 to $40 per month, depending on the type of system.

The company offers a variety of a water-cooler models as well as an under-the-sink filtration system that is the preferred option for many homes.

After it’s installed, Blue Reserve technicians come about once every nine months to change the filters.

“We market it as an alternative to buying bottled water, eliminating the large amount of waste and the health concerns,” Pollock said.

“We have a lot of people who are concerned about health. People who are concerned about what they’re consuming,” he said.

“For instance, chlorine really scares me because it’s put into (municipal) water to kill things, and then we drink it. We advocate strongly about taking chlorine out of drinking water.”

While much attention is paid to environmental concerns of bottled water and chemicals added to municipal drinking water, those who obtain their water from a private well can also experience contamination issues.

Wells are less likely to have high levels of chlorine or fluoride but can have bacterial, radon or heavy metal contamination issues.

“That’s why we always do a water test to match them up with a specific system for their needs,” Pollock said.

The company has grown since its founding. Pollock and Friedman now employ a full-time plumber and two sales representatives.

While 85 percent of the company’s business remains in Maine, Blue Reserve also has accounts in Boston, Connecticut and New York. Sales efforts are under way in New Hampshire.

“We really fell in love with the state and wanted to find a way to stay,” said Pollock, who grew up in New York. (Friedman grew up in Massachusetts.) “Maine’s proved a really nice place to do business.”

The company recently won an Entreverge award from PROPEL, the young professionals networking group of the Portland Regional Chamber.

Equally important, Pollock and Friedman are finding success with a business solution to an environmental and health problem.

And Mader sees her efforts to provide her family with the best food and water paying off.

We all can drink to that.

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]

Follow her on Twitter at:

Twitter.com/AveryYaleKamila