Classroom project filters into opportunity

August 23, 2012
Amy Dove
Alumni Mike Ansley and Zac Dalrymple, with Petro Barrier Systems Inc. founder Iain Muir (centre) are launching a new line of drain filters with a wireless monitoring system that will alert clients to contamination when it happens.

Mike Ansley and Zac Dalrymple found opportunity in a storm drain.

It started with a business plan crafted for class during their Royal Roads Bachelor of Commerce degree and flowed into the opportunity to help lead a company in a new direction as vice-presidents of marketing and communications and sales and operations, respectively. Petro Barrier Systems Inc., based in Sidney, B.C., is looking to expand and founder Iain Muir says the graduates are integral to his plans.

“I’m hoping they can take this thing and run with it,” Muir says. “There is new technology and new fresh minds involved – it keeps you on your toes in terms of making sure you are up to date with what’s going on.”

For the alumni, the chance to turn a school assignment into a career is immensely rewarding. “The continued learning is so valuable,” says Dalrymple, noting the class project turned job opportunity was a great bridge between school and real life.

They are applying what they learned at Royal Roads to help Muir move his company away from its current product manufacturing and into more research and development, with a focus on expanded service delivery. Muir, the inventor behind a variety of filter products including storm and floor drains, has also partnered with two professors from Camosun College to develop a wireless monitoring system for individual drains and a portable system for treating contaminated water onsite.

The company currently manufactures and sells a variety of products which are installed throughout the world, from North America to Turks and Caicos. The patented filters capture oil and other chemicals through a chemical reaction that creates a gel that traps the substance from going any further while water continues to flow. In the event of a large spill the gel seals over the drain entirely, preventing anything from passing through. These filters, which are designed to be inserted within existing drains, will be outfitted with a monitoring system to collect data on water flow and alert clients to any problems.

The onsite treatment system will allow water to remain in local ecosystems and Muir already has two clients eager to try it out. A monitoring pilot project is underway with the onsite water filter and more than 400,000 gallons of water has been cleaned and returned to where it came from, Ansley says.

“You want to keep water within the system,” he adds, noting that has positive impacts for the waterways the aquifer feeds into.

“If you don’t discharge it back into the system, you discharge it somewhere,” Dalrymple adds.

The men are passionate about the company and opportunities it presents not only for them but for those keen to protect the environment. Both are quick to acknowledge Muir as a genius for developing the systems.

“For a couple of hundred dollars you can stop your pollution,” Ansley says. “We are working on fixing a problem with a real solution.”