For years, Mark St. Hilaire worked as a licensed plumber in New England, where he routinely encountered an array of challenging water quality issues, particularly with customers who had private wells. The region is known for high levels of iron and manganese, plus other potential problems including turbidity, salt-water intrusion, hardness, radon, arsenic, trihalomethanes and PFAs. St. Hilaire began taking courses and learning on the job how to find solutions to fix those problems. That was 30 years ago.
“Every system has to be customized to the water test results, volume needs and other concerns of the customer. It can vary greatly. It’s difficult to ‘cookie-cut’ this business,” St. Hilaire said. He is President and a major stockholder of H2O Care, which has 22 employees and offices in Middleton and Hudson, MA. There are three other stockholders: one is an advisor to the company and the other two are employees. Two of St. Hilaire’s family members are on staff: his wife Joyce, who works in customer service, and son Matt, who installs and services systems.
St. Hilaire’s team of water quality experts is proud to fix water problems that other firms have been unable to address. H2O Care is often cited in industry magazines for its creative water quality solutions, as well as its high customer retention and satisfaction, he said. The company’s website features some of those customers. For example, one family with a private well experienced severe orange staining and corrosion throughout their home. The cause was a high concentration of iron in the water, combined with a low pH level. The homeowner said: “We could never wash white clothing at home because the water contained such a high level of iron it turned everything orange. The water was undrinkable and our sinks, toilets and washing machine were rusted and stained. The H2O Care home system resolved all these issues and alleviated a great deal of stress for us.”
In another family, a child experienced skin irritation and sensitivity as a reaction to the impurities in the town-supplied municipal water, caused by hard water coupled with a relatively high chlorine level. “The water in our home was so awful it was causing my young daughter’s eczema to get progressively worse. We knew there was a serious problem and were so relieved when H2O Care came to help.” H2O Care also designed a whole-house RO system for a customer who had immune-system issues and wanted the best possible water throughout the home.
The company serves clients in four states: eastern Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire, southern Maine and parts of Rhode Island. St. Hilaire said: “In this region, it’s important to know that water testing results from the well across the street can be very different than your own private well’s results. Also, the groundwater sources supplying your well may change in terms of quantity and quality of water supplied over time. For this reason, routine system maintenance should always include water testing to make sure your water softener or filtration system is continuing to create the desired water quality levels. Water tests will reveal multiple contaminants that need to be addressed. A complete resolution may require multiple pieces of equipment to eliminate the problems.”
St. Hilaire said one business challenge is the Internet. “Potential customers want us to install cheaper systems. For Internet sales, we have to sell our company, not the product, because the average person has no idea of what they really need, how to maintain it, appropriate service intervals or how to troubleshoot equipment when there is a problem. We tell people they’re buying us as a dedicated company to support what gets installed, not just a piece of equipment. Our employees take pride in providing customers with consistently great water quality.”
Another challenge is staffing. “We treat existing employees well and keep looking and interviewing to find qualified, dedicated new employees. We do mostly hands-on training in the field with experienced technicians. It’s a long, in-depth process. We have licensed plumbers on staff to ensure installations are completed properly and to assist in the training of the service staff.
In 1989, after working several years in the industry and completing numerous water quality courses and other training, St. Hilaire formed Aqua Tech Water Systems and over the next 10 years, designed and installed a wide variety of water filtration and water softener systems to resolve many different water quality issues. In 1999, Aqua Tech merged with Atlas Water Systems, combining the commercial water quality expertise of Atlas with the residential expertise of Aqua Tech. In 2014, that company was acquired by Quench USA, which integrated the commercial drinking water and high-purity water operations that aligned with its existing core business. Four months later, H2O Care Inc. was formed to purchase Atlas’ Residential Systems Group from Quench.
Over the past 30 years, St. Hilaire and his team have installed thousands of water treatment systems. The H2O Care team supports and services the systems they have installed, along with thousands of systems installed by other companies that do not provide maintenance services or are no longer in business.
Looking ahead, St. Hilaire said the company plans to continue “to increase customer density in towns to lower our travel time between service appointments and open new offices as it becomes appropriate. We will continue to find and train new staff to install and service, and we will continue to look for new and better equipment and reliable vendors who maintain high-quality standards. H2O Care remains committed to what brought us successful growth over the years: our customers and our outstanding staff that is focused on delivering outstanding service to our customers.”