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Entrepreneur hopes to clean up; ENVIRONMENT: Flucon expects turnover to increase to around pounds 10m.

Byline: DARREN DEVINE

AN AERATOR device designed by a North Wales entrepreneur could help clean up watercourses in the Third World polluted by larva from mosquito breeding grounds.

Norman Edwards designed and patented the aerator, which has a variety of applications for environmental clean-up work such as oil spills.

Such is the marketing potential of the device that Foreign Office officials recently passed on information about its applications to 140 embassies world-wide.

Before September 11, Mr Edwards's company St Asaphbased Flucon, was in talks with Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York.

The New York authorities wanted a solution to the mosquito infestation that plagued the city and caused illness among some of its residents in the summer of 2000.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11 the authorities' priorities have understandably shifted, but the Flucon aerator is still managing to attract interest around the world.

Oil companies and environmental clean-up agencies are also showing interest in the firm's floating aerators for use alongside conventional equipment in clearing up pollutants from de-commissioned oil rigs.

The aerator has already proved its worth in everyday applications such as the treatment of sewage effluent at plants in North Wales.

The invention had a humble beginning when a fish farmer from Nannerch, near Mold, whose lake was being starved of oxygen by algae, approached Mr Edwards to see if he could find a solution.

"We tried several different devices and then came up with the concept of the aerator, " Mr Edwards said. "We put a rudimentary version of the equipment in the lake and within one day it was back to a healthy condition."

The basic idea is straight forward. An air and water mixture is pumped in a high-powered stream of micro-bubbles at depths and positions to suit each problem.

In the case of pollutant clearance, micro-organisms already in the water thrive in the oxygenrich environment and digest solids such as sewage, oil or industrial effluent suspended in the water mass.

Mr Edwards claims the aerator can save 50pc on energy costs compared to paddle aerators, is quieter, more efficient and cuts odour release - important to people living near sewage works.

Company turnover is currently about pounds 1m but Mr Edwards believes this will grow to pounds 10m within the space of a few years.

Mr Edwards is looking into the possibility of licensing agreements which would involve overseas firms paying Flucon a one-off fee for the rights to sell the aerator abroad.

The company's clients includ Walkers Crisps, Corus, Wels Water, Anglian Water and Thames Water.

The Ministry of Defence wants to use the aerators in onboard effluent storage tanks o its destroyers. They help to keep the liquid in a condition suitable for pumping into the sewer on return to dock.

Flucon was started by Mr Edwards in 1988.

Profile

THE aerator side of the business was launched six years ago and now takes up all Mr Edwards's time while his sons help run other aspects of the business including pump sales.

The company received a Welsh Office grant of pounds 24,000 to develop the concept of the aerator and was selected to take part in a presentation of innovative business ideas to MPs at the Commons in 2000.

The company employs a small staff at its headquarters and sub-contracts much of the manufacture and assembly work to local firms.

Mr Edwards, 61, believes that in two years' time the company could be employing between 50 and 100 people if sales increase four- or five-fold as predicted.

CAPTION(S):

ATTRACTING ATTENTION: Flucon founder Norman Edwards with two of the company's aerators which have applications in sewage treatment as well as environmental clean-up wor
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 23, 2002
Words:614
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