By Denise M. Roberts

Many successful independent water quality businesses attribute their longevity and prosperity to family ownership carried over from one generation to the next. Claire Champney of full-service well drilling company Yankee Water Systems had something slightly different in mind. She wasn’t ready to retire, but felt that daughter Cindy Killer, with years of experience accumulated at Yankee, was ready to start her own company.

Killer wanted to spend less time on drill rigs, hydro fracturing and installing pump systems when she became pregnant with her first child. “We really started to focus on water treatment, which we had only dabbled in previously,” Killer explained. “I loved water treatment instantly. It has so many different facets and it’s very challenging.” Mother and daughter discussed the options and Atlantic Water Solutions (AWS) was launched. A collaborative agreement that benefitted each party was worked out: when AWS needed The company had to overcome many challenges while building its reputation. The biggest, being a woman-owned business in what was perceived as a man’s world, has diminished significantly. In the past, homeowners directed their questions and comments to male technicians instead of Killer or asked to speak with the ‘guy who owns the company’ when she answered the phone. As more word-of-mouth referrals were provided, customers began asking specifically for her.

Core elements of the business include in-home water testing (in conjunction with Nelson Analytical Laboratories), service and annual maintenance on existing systems, installation of new units and delivery of supplies. “It’s very satisfying to help our customers with the broad range of water issues in our region. I perform testing and explain the results to homeowners in ways they can understand,” Killer said. Her approach has helped the company develop long-standing, beneficial relationships with its customers over the years. “They provide even more business leads and are excited to tell us about someone who needs our services as badly as they once did!”

Two trucks and three employees serve southern and central Maine and southeastern New Hampshire. With 15 years of combined water treatment experience and training, the staff is capable of addressing the most difficult problems. Killer holds multiple licenses issued by Maine and New Hampshire: Domestic Pump Installer (each state’s Water Well Boards), Rotary Water Well Contractor (New Hampshire) and Apprentice Well Driller and Trainee Plumber (Maine). Most recently, she received the Very Small Water System License (Maine Department of Health and Human Services). Killer has also completed Chandler System’s Basic Water Treatment Training Program; Water-Right, Inc.’s Advanced Water Quality, Conditioning and Service School and R.E. Prescott Company’s Pump and Filtration School. She and brother-in-law Kirk Killer (Director of Sales and Marketing) both have completed Premier Pump & Supply’s Water Treatment, Water Testing, Trouble Shooting, Sizing and Selecting training as well. As members of the Water Quality Association, they hope to take WQA certification exams next winter.

During the coldest months, when revenues are noticeably impacted by higher heating oil and fuel costs, AWS concentrates on fulfilling annual service contract obligations and other indoor pursuits. The slower business season presents more opportunities to complete training classes, earn continuing education credits and attend home shows to promote their product lines. The bestsellers are whole-house arsenic treatment units, sulfur and iron/manganese filters and acid neutralizers.

Killer views water filtration as an industry that constantly evolves, along with the science of water, creating challenges that make filtration a great field. Frequent and successive updates to state and federal requirements identifying yet more contaminants will require new removal techniques. The well-driller-cum-filtration-specialist envisions new, technologically advanced products to cope with those regulatory demands: valves that have remote laptop access to stored filter activity histories, new media that allow for multiple contaminant removal with one vessel versus two or three and hopefully (soon), an alternative hardness removal system that doesn’t require brine tanks.

The foreseeable future is filled with activity for Atlantic Water Solutions. Over the next five years, Killer proposes a full slate of creative marketing approaches, continued training, additional customer materials, outreach programs, more home show attendance and fun, educational material development for children. AWS takes advantage of its website and home shows to further promote water knowledge and Killer is especially focused on educating children about the importance of water quality. “We continue to strive to provide outstanding customer service and products to homeowners, plumbers, realtors, home inspectors and others who seek to understand water issues.”


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