It’s a common experience: walking along a busy city street after a rainstorm and dodging a dirty puddle of sludgy stormwater and a gutter gurgling up with garbage.
“What if I told you most of that stormwater and trash goes directly into our rivers, lakes and oceans without being filtered or treated?” asked Brian Deurloo in his office at the Wyoming Technology Business Center in Casper one fall afternoon. “That garbage, that road sediment, those cigarette butts – 80 percent of stormwater is not treated and goes straight to the river.”
More than four-trillion cigarette butts are littered annually, and the toxins from just one butt will kill five of 10 fish in a liter of water, he continued. The mass of plastics in the ocean is estimated to outweigh the fish in the ocean by the year 2050.
Poorly-designed drains also contribute to flooding, safety hazards and increased road maintenance when they get choked with trash and debris.
For all those reasons, Deurloo hopes his patent-pending Gutter Bin invention ends up in every storm drain around the world.
“I literally want millions of these in the ground to create cleaner rivers and reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the oceans,” he said.
Deurloo is a Sheridan native and a mining engineer who was climbing the corporate ladder in the energy industry prior to starting Frog Creek Partners, the manufacturer of the Gutter Bin® stormwater filtration system.
“I knew since a very young age I wanted to invent something useful,” he said.
It was 2:38 a.m. on his daughter’s 8th birthday in 2016 when Deurloo said he woke up with an idea: a stormwater filter that could be installed just about anywhere, easily serviced and effective against stormwater pollution without causing flooding.
By 4 a.m., he was at Walmart buying supplies to create a prototype. A few weeks later, he was one of the winners of the Wyoming Technology Business Center’s Startup Challenge, earning seed money, mentorship and office space in the business center for a year.
Today, his Gutter Bins are developed and manufactured in Wyoming. He’s working hard to scale up and install his invention everywhere. His first customer was his hometown of Sheridan. He also has bins in Casper, downtown Denver and California, with upcoming installs in Jackson Hole, Cheyenne, Colorado Springs and the Denver Zoo.
His design incorporates a mesh bag that can capture 100 percent of trash and cigarette butts, plus sediment and hydrocarbons from the streets after a rainstorm without clogging the drain and causing flooding.
Ordinary storm catch basins require 10 to 30 minutes to clean and maintain with a vacuum truck, Deurloo said. His Gutter Bin requires less than 60 seconds to clean. It’s more like residential curbside trash pickup: stop, dump, go. He can train his customers to maintain the bins, or he offers a maintenance service when the bins are installed.
Part of Deurloo’s system includes weighing and monitoring the amount of pollution removed when the Gutter Bins are emptied in order to quantify and prove their effectiveness.
“We manage what we measure,” Deurloo said.
The maintenance cycle depends on the location, pollution load and local climate. The 12 Gutter Bins in downtown Denver, for example, have removed almost a ton of trash in the first six months of operation.
Deurloo monitors his Gutter Bins with a mobile app, and he’s created a slick virtual-reality video demonstration of the product that he uses for sales and traiing purposes.
“I want to make stormwater pollution capture sexy and cool again,” Deurloo said with his signature smirk.
While his former industry – mining, oil and gas – and the clean-water industry aren’t always aligned, Deurloo said they have a similar interest in understanding the value of Earth’s natural resources. Some of his earliest and most enthusiastic investors have been private mining and energy companies who want to mitigate their impact on the planet and improve their public image.
“Clean water is important for everyone, regardless of politics or policies,” Deurloo said. “And it’s going to require effort by everyone to clean it up. I have faith that we can do it.”