DETROIT — Essentially, it’s a fancy straw.
The Detroit water technology developer Parjana Inc. is seeing increased use of its groundwater management system, called EGRP (an acronym for Energy-passive Groundwater Recharge Product).
EGRP is actually five of those fancy straws bundled together. Together, they’re about as big around as a quarter. They come in lengths of 10 to 20 feet, and in an installation, dozens to hundreds of them are driven straight down into the ground, typically a few feet apart.
Parjana’s fancy straws act as a gravity-powered water pump, pulling water from the surface to the soils deep underground — as far as the Parjana straws extend downward. The devices also move the water horizontally, equalizing the amount of water in soils all along their length (that’s why they have an opening on the side, to allow water to seep out into dry areas along their length until it’s no longer dry).
The EGRP has eliminated ponding problems at dozens of sites around Michigan and the country, from golf courses to airports to college campuses.
Believe it or not, all this started with a handyman’s attempt to get water out of his basement.
Andrew Niemczyk was born in Poland, but escaped what was then a Communist dictatorship in 1984, after having been imprisoned, beaten and tortured. He wound up in Italy, where a charity sent him to the Polish community in Hamtramck. And there, his bride complained about water in the basement of the family home.
Niemczyk had offers from the usual dry basement companies that do stuff like dig up around the house and put a tar seal on the concrete basement, or lay down pipes and pumps to get the water away. But Niemczyk decided there had to be a better, cheaper way, and came up with the basic idea for Parjana in 1997. He created Parjana Inc. in 2004 to test and develop the product, which he patented in 2010.
Then came a chance meeting with water entrepreneur Gregory McPartlin, arranged by the owner of a Coney Island restaurant both men frequented. McPartlin is a Detroit native who got a bachelor’s degree in industrial marketing from Western Michigan University, then spent 12 years traveling the world and visiting more than 50 countries, and another eight years in Washington, D.C. and Brazil — working in water technology during all those travels. He moved back to the Detroit area in 2011, intrigued by the potential the Great Lakes give Michigan in what he’s sure is a coming Blue Economy.
The result of the meeting was Parjana Distribution, incorporated in 2012 to sell the EGRP worldwide.
Most recently, Parjana has installed its products at the offices of the Mott Foundation in Flint and at the Midland Country Club. It’s also involved in studies with Lawrence Technological University and its professor Donald Carpenter, a globally recognized expert in stormwater runoff and water management. Kenneth Eisenberg, CEO of Dearborn’s Kenwal Steel, is an investor in the company.
Looking forward, McPartlin said, “we’re looking to partner with big organizations. We’ve probably got 20 million-dollar projects in the pipeline.” Included is a project to replace stormwater runoff systems in a subdivision of 200 homes.