By Emma H. Peterson
Behind the scenes of healthy drinking water are engineers, chemists and researchers that build the plants and systems on which the water treatment industry relies so heavily today. ProChemTech International, Inc. is on the front lines of these activities and does it all.
The company was founded in 1987 by Timothy Keister as a privately owned, Pennsylvania-based company, dedicated to innovating the industry. With his ‘oddball’ degree in ceramic science, Keister gained his knowledge of the industry at a Fortune 500 manufacturing firm, as a corporate water/wastewater manager, where he stayed for 13 years. “I ended up with 38 plants under my jurisdiction,” Keister said, “Basically anything with water or wastewater belonged to me. I never expected it. However, it was a good education.” After the company was purchased, he started ProChemTech. Keister was very particular about the people he started the business with, some of his first employees being chemists from the manufacturing company R&D Center.
Years down the road, ProChemTech, a Delaware C Corporation, continues to operate out of Brockway, PA, in addition to its most recent addition, a chemical plant in Apache Junction, AZ. The company provides both commercial and industrial services in nine states centered around the two manufacturing/service center sites. Of ProChemTech’s 11 patented technologies, it primarily offers chemical products to treat boiler, cooling and industrial wastewaters with onsite service. Its Engineered Systems Division designs and builds industrial wastewater and cooling tower systems, inclined plate clarifiers, electrolytic bromine generators and BlueTrak sensors, as well as assemble water softeners, multimedia filters and various membrane-based devices.
ProChemTech is a multigenerational business with Keister being the Chief Chemist and President and his wife, Kathy, the CEO. In the next seven years, the plan is for their children to completely take over the company. His son Joseph, the Erie District Manager, has been with the company for almost eight years now doing both sales and service. His daughter Jessica, the ‘silent owner,’ is in charge of marketing. Both Joseph and Jessica are excited to become the face of a second-generation company.
Scouting for new members has proven to be difficult though, considering the close company network with its loyal employees. “In our business, our salesmen have to know technology as well as being a good people-person. Some salesmen we’ve had in the past have been chemists,” Keister said. Because the company is selling highly technical content, not just anyone is suitable for the job. “It’s a lot more complex than your typical water treatment guy who’s a softener salesman,” he continued. When the President is a Certified Water Technologist, the VP is an environmental engineer and licensed wastewater treatment plant operator and several of the employees are registered professional engineers, one must come in knowing a thing or two about the chemical products and high technical content.
Having treatment plants both in the Southwest and on the East Coast has given Keister a unique perspective. “The water that you see here (on the East Coast) is very, very high quality compared to what you see in Arizona or California. There are very few HVAC counts. The Southwest water is harsh, it’s high in chloride… totally different water,” he said. The different experiences have been nothing short of educational for the crew. “When we first opened the Arizona office, we just didn’t have much experience in HVAC, but we have found out that it’s a radically different business,” Keister said.
Now being knowledgeable about these serious issues, Keister has used ProChemTech as a platform to promote awareness to the systemic barriers preventing proper conservation of Arizonawater. “Many management companies are not interested in performance. All they want is the cheapest program they can get away with. They don’t care about water conservation or anything,” he said about companies in the Southwest. The company has been doing government business in Arizona for 20 years, only to find that, as Keister put it, “the government, states, cities, schools, universities and our technologies could save them literally millions of gallons of water per year, but none of them are very interested in it.” As he continues to watch famous landmarks (such as Lake Mead,) lose more feet of level every year, he cannot help but to shudder at the companies who will do nothing about it.
Keister has been long pushing awareness for his products that will help solve issues in the absence of correct use of certain treatment products, poor service and inadequate chemical control systems, all of which lead to excessive water use. “There’s all sorts of non-chemical devices floating around… none of them work,” he noted. With the proven chemistry behind ProChemTech’s Aqua Save and Aqua Ionic products, the company is contributing to the advancement of the industry and providing healthier water with less waste. “Aqua Ionic permits cycles of concentration to be increased nine-fold, reducing cooler tower water use (which accounts for 30-85 percent percent of water used in many facilities) by up to 35 percent,” Keister said.
Other company endeavors include raising overall sales by 10 percent per year in addition to developing new sales districts. The business is also currently working on another patented system with new cooling water chemistry that lowers water surface tension to improve heat transfer in HVAC and process applications. $600,000 was recently invested to expand the Brockway chemical manufacturing plant.
ProChemTech’s mission and goals all surround the idea of improving the industry for both the environment and the customers, and to therefore be the most respected company for it. Due to an increasing lack of fresh water in many areas, especially in the Southwest, interest in cooling tower water use reduction and wastewater treatment with means to recycle and reuse water will also increase. Keister believes it is their duty to be the best in the industry, so that other companies might view them as the standard to follow.
About the author
Emma H. Peterson, author of WC&P International’s corporate and dealer profile series, is a student at the University of Arizona, majoring in journalism, with a minor in natural resources. Throughout her college experience, she has developed a following for her photography and photojournalism endeavors. After graduation, Peterson intends to broadly expand her creative/feature writing and photography prospects, as well as pursue her personal interests in skiing and rock climbing.