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EcoWater Marks 75 Years of Innovation

    In the beginning, there was water. Residential water treatment products came along a little later, say the early 1920s.

    That's when Lynn G. Lindsay, a young hydraulics engineer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, teamed with his brother, Fred, and a neighbor, Emmett Culligan, to begin experimenting with water conditioning devices.

    In 1925, Lynn Lindsay received the first of his many patents for automatic water softeners designed to meet the needs of the individual homeowner.

    The early Lindsay water softener consisted of two steel tanks, several feet high and interconnected by a system of brass pipes and valves. One, which intersected the home's water supply, was a pressure tank containing a bed of zeolite, a sand-like mineral with a negative electrical charge. Zeolite was covered with sodium (salt)ions, which carry a positive electrical charge. Calcium and magnesium, natural enemies of pristine water, carry stronger positive charges than does sodium. Thus when water flowed through the softener, calcium and magnesium ions were drawn to the zeolite, dislodging and replacing the sodium ions. The process, known as ion exchange, removed the hardness-causing minerals from the water.

    The second tank served to regenerate the softener. A brine solution flushed the calcium and magnesium from the zeolite, carried them out a drain and left the zeolite re-coated with sodium. Thus the zeolite was "regenerated," ready to repeat the water softening function.

    Lynn Lindsay and Emmett Culligan stumped the Midwest preaching the virtues of home water conditioning, but sales were few. Mr. Culligan thought the system's problem was that the owner needed to frequently perform the manual regeneration procedure. Mr. Lindsay, however, stuck to his original idea and the two parted, each to run his own business.

    Mr. Culligan's approach was to install a zeolite (pressure)tank in the home, but no salt (regeneration)tank. For a monthly fee, route servicemen visited the customer's home every few weeks, removed the sodium-depleted pressure tank and replaced it with a fresh one. Meanwhile, Mr. Lindsay sold his two-tank unit outright, maintaining that different levels of hardness and varying rates of household use often required more frequent and irregular regeneration than that offered by a scheduled route service.

    First the Great Depression and then World War II interrupted Mr. Lindsay's soft water business. During the war, he manufactured silica gel used in the packing of delicate war materials to prevent corrosion. Meanwhile, his two sons served in the military. At the outset of the post-war housing boom, however, the reunited family resumed the water softening business in St. Paul. The company began selling through dealers, some of whom continue in EcoWater's dealer network today.

    Though lack of consumer awareness limited industry growth, competitors ppeared, copying the Lindsay water softener. In 1950, the company took the lead again by replacing zeolite with tiny, porous beads made from a petroleum- based resin. The result: The water conditioner's contaminant-removing capacity greatly increased, reducing the frequency of regeneration.

    Three years later, regeneration became automatic with the addition of a timer that allowed the unit to regenerate when water wasn't being used, typically during the night. In 1955, the company moved to a bigger factory in St. Paul. More improvements followed, including introduction of corrosion-proof fiberglass pressure tanks, fiberglass brine tanks and, in 1958, the first space-saving tank-within- a-tank system. It would be Lynn Lindsay's last innovation. In 1959, he sold the company to Trans Union Corporation.

    Improvements in product appearance and efficiency continued under the new ownership, including introduction of the first decorator-styled, compact console model in 1969.The same year, Lindsay's operations, which had expanded into six facilities, were consolidated in a new plant in the Twin Cities suburb of Woodbury, still home to EcoWater.

    Still more innovations followed in the 1970s, including replacement of electro- mechanical timers with electronic controls. The decade also witnessed the opening of the company's first production facility in Europe. Located in Belgium, the plant gave Lindsay an important resource for international growth.
In 1981, the acquisition of Trans Union brought Lindsay into The Marmon Group.

    Two years later, the company introduced a complete line of drinking water products, including filters, distillation units and reverse osmosis systems. Also in 1983, Lindsay purchased the Water Refining Company of Middletown, Ohio, owner of the Miracle Water and Servisoft brands of water conditioning equipment. For a time, Lindsay manufactured three lines of equipment, sold through three separate dealer networks.

    In 1988, however, the three brands were united under one banner: EcoWater Systems.


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Last Updated July 8, 2010
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