In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and the plethora of news stories about lead-contaminated water elsewhere, entrepreneur Megan Glover began wondering how easy it was for consumers to test their own water.
What she said she discovered was a "consumer-unfriendly" and often-cost-prohibitive situation for many consumers, depending on where they live.
So she teamed with tech entrepreneur Chris Baggott—-the ExactTarget co-founder she had worked alongside in the early days of one of his other tech startups, Compendium Software LLC—to start a subscription water-testing company called 120WaterAudit LLC.
"A few months ago, we were catching up and started discussing the need and solution for easy, reliable, commercial-grade water testing, and why can't it be a lot easier for consumers to just know what's in their water," Glover said.
Greenfield-based 120WaterAudit goes live Tuesday and will be available to consumers across the country. It works like this: Every 120 days, customers get a box, which includes a water bottle that they fill with tap water and return in a postage-paid package. Test results are returned in 14 days or less via email.
The package goes to lab in Cleveland, which tests for lead, arsenic and other contaminants. Consumers are charged $120 per test after they submit their water samples.
"You can pass a test today and turn on your water tomorrow and it can have lead in it," Baggott said. "So it's not a once-and-done-type thing, so that's why we came up with the subscription model."
The issue goes beyond Flint. An Indianapolis Star investigation of state records earlier this year found that about "one-third of Indiana's lead tests since 2013 were at or above 5 parts per billion—a level lower than the federal benchmark but one prominent scientists have said is a potential health concern, especially for babies, young children and pregnant women."
The New York Times in March found that schools in cities including New Jersey, New York and Los Angeles experienced elevated lead levels in drinking water, a problem stemming in part from "ancient buildings and plumbing," "official neglect and tight budgets," and a "loophole in federal rules that largely exempts schools from responsibility for the purity of their water."
Water might be fine when it leaves a testing plant, Glover said, but can become contaminated while traveling through old service lines. These lines are expensive to replace.
"Some people might say, 'Well, I'm on a public system and my water company tests their water,'" Glover said. "Well, they really only test for certain contaminants every three years … and they certainly aren't testing every path."
Since it isn't economically feasible for the company to run a hundred-plus different tests, the company has three test categories—city, well and drilling. People that draw water from wells might live in agricultural communities and have water at risk of containing nitrates, while municipal water may not have those risks. People who live in areas where fracking is common may face different risks.
If the test results come back indicative of a problem, 120WaterAudit makes recommendations on how to remedy the issue.
Besides Glover and Baggott, the third co-founder and board member is David Kohl, owner of water-testing lab CWM Environmental. Baggott is chairman and Glover is CEO and, for now, the sole employee. Before this, Glover held senior roles at Delivra Inc., RICS Software Inc. and HC1.com
The company has raised less than $500,000 to fund operations from friends and family members, including Baggott. It's running in lean startup mode now but the founders envision adding employees as the company grows.
Despite his involvement in 120WaterAudit, Baggott's main priority is his startup ClusterTruck LLC, a food-tech startup that enlists software developers and cooks to deliver food to customers within minutes of it being prepared.