Contrary to popular belief, the water in Alaska is neither pure nor pristine. Surface water is subject to Giardia and wellwater often times has has levels of iron and manganese. Influenced by glacial runoff, water sources often have very high turbidity levels – so much so that the water looks like weak chocolate milk. Such problems present specific challenges for the water treatment professionals at Alaska Pure Water Products.
The business started in 1985 as a retail water store offering customers the self-service option of filling their own containers with either purified or distilled water. The company grew and the product line was expanded to include bottled water and residential/commercial water treatment. Additionally, the firm became active in small community and municipal water system equipment sales and service but the expansion trend didn’t last. The business returned to retail activities, selling water over-the-counter along with residential filtration products and reverse osmosis (RO) systems.
Steven Sommerfeld purchased the company in 1993, primarily to find a more appreciative field of endeavor. After 12 years of selling earth moving industrial equipment, he felt people didn’t like bulldozer and backhoe providers. “Water treatment equipment seemed different; you are everyone’s friend, developers and greenies alike,” Sommerfeld said.
The company was exclusively a retail water store and bottled water delivery business. To get into the full market sector, Sommerfeld bought an additional business focused on wholesale water treatment products, including commercial and industrial water purification.
Sommerfeld knew things were on the right track when the company went from leasing a 4,000 square foot facility to purchasing its own 8,500 square foot building. The number of staff increased from three to 10 full-time employees. Four employees are among Alaska’s six certified water specialists (including Sommerfeld, who holds CWS-V and Certified Installer credentials). “They’re dedicated, almost like a family and they’re in this for the long term,” he said. The vehicle fleet grew to nine, including a 1951 Chevy delivery van used for special occasions and good weather bottled water setups. Then, in 2003, APWP joined the Kinetico dealership network for residential and commercial treatment systems.