Florida dealer uses chemistry background to provide detailed water analyses
Editor's Note: Do you know a water treatment dealer who deserves recognition for leadership in the industry, innovative ideas or successful business practices? Nominate them to be featured as a WQP Dealer Highlight here. Self-nominations are accepted.
With a background in chemistry and a former career in the pharmaceutical industry, Michael Melendez began his tenure in the water industry working with “the big ones,” as he said. In Puerto Rico, Melendez performed water quality analyses in pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, working with large industrial equipment. In 2012, he moved to Florida, where he began working for a local water treatment provider, and in 2017, he opened Orbital Water Consulting, based in Ft. Myers, Fla.
“It was not only to have a business and make money for me,” Melendez said of his decision to open the business. “I was so concerned about the water quality in the U.S. Coming from Puerto Rico, I know the water around the world is not quality water, and when you’re connected to commercial water city water, the water is not pure. Once the water leaves the treatment plant, you’re running different pipes in different areas and there’s no way you can have pure water in your home.”
Orbital Water Consulting serves homes and businesses in the Ft. Myers, Fla., area.
The biggest challenge when treating the area’s municipal water, Melendez said, is sediment, which quickly builds up in filters of the homes and businesses he serves.
“I change filters every month, and it’s insane how much sediment you can collect in one month,” he said. “When you take the filter out of the housing, it has dirt covering the filter. It’s completely brown.”
For homes connected to wells, which Melendez estimates make up 60% to 70% of his company’s residential customers, he sees similar problems. He said homeowners and property managers often do not have the education necessary to treat well water, which in his area is plagued with sulfur and iron. For homes with wells along Florida’s gulf coast, algae from the red tide is a toxic concern for homeowners. Melendez stressed the importance of finding a water treatment provider equipped to deal with such dangerous contaminants, and occasionally finds himself making exceptions for customers in desperate need of treatment.
“Sometimes we drop our prices to help somebody to have good water,” Melendez said. “Some people in the business say, ‘You’re crazy. You’re losing money.’ Yeah I’m losing money, but I’m helping that person to have good water. That person is giving me 10 referrals and they’re doing it because we’re helping them have better water.”
Although there is high demand in residential water treatment, Orbital Water Consulting also works in the commercial space. Melendez said in his area, many treatment providers avoid the commercial sphere because they are ill equipped to handle the requirements of these larger systems.
“Some other plumbing companies are doing commercial but they’re doing it wrong. They don’t know how to do the sizing correctly,” he said. “They don’t know how to treat the water.”
At one restaurant Orbital worked with, a plumbing company had installed a residential twin water softener for this facility that used up to 70,000 gal of water per month, which exhausted the system after only a week of operation. The lack of skilled technicians for these types of systems is hard on business owners, but has provided an opportunity for Melendez.
“There are so many restaurants around and you can see they have the filtration system inside, but when it’s time to change the filter the owners are finding nobody to do it,” he said. “[Treatment providers] don’t have the supplies or they don’t even show up because they don’t want to touch it.”
Melendez sees opportunities in educating commercial property owners on the value of using quality water in their businesses. In one restaurant example, Melendez combined two treatment systems, and after the system was installed, the restaurant held an open house during which it debuted a new menu. Both Melendez and the restaurant’s owner noticed customers talking about how good the water tasted.
“Even the chef came to me and said, ‘Dude, you did something great here. The food tastes completely different,’” Melendez said.
All in the Family
Orbital Water Consulting has three employees, including Melendez; his wife and brother make up the rest of the staff. When the business first began, Melendez took them into the field so they could see the treatment systems in action.
“They were looking at what I was doing and I was at the same time explaining what I was doing, and they could see the results,” Melendez said. “I have different devices and different tests so they could see exactly how I was treating the water and the result at the end of the filtration system. It was easy to train them because they could understand how the process starts and how the process ends.”
In terms of his own training, Melendez is a member of the Water Quality Assn. (WQA), and is in the process of becoming a Certified Water Specialist and earning a Residential Water Treatment Design Certificate. He finds WQA’s resources and training programs to be beneficial to his professional growth.
“I’m impressed with the training,” Melendez said. “The courses are really specific. They challenge you a lot. They have a lot of good information in the courses, and I’m learning a lot.”
Melendez’s background in chemistry puts him in a unique position among his competitors. He said he has an advantage because he is able to analyze water on a deeper level and can determine the correct combination of media to achieve the best results.
Formula for Success
Orbital Water Consulting has a comprehensive website outlining the company’s service offerings and providing education, but Melendez said the most effective form of marketing comes from someone else: a real estate broker he has partnered with. When this broker sells new houses, he pitches Melendez’s alkaline water systems to buyers, often providing education about the benefits of such a system.
“It’s a nice combination because he’s advertising my business on his web page and he has a huge market web,” Melendez said. “He knows a lot of people, so every time he posts something on his website related to the water, I believe in one day he has 5 or 10 leads. … I don’t have to go to the street and spend a lot of hours doing marketing because everything is online and the broker is having meetings with investors and building companies, so he’s putting my name on the market.”
Melendez sees more regulation of the industry in the future by organizations such as the WQA and the Florida Water Quality Assn., who aim to further legitimize trustworthy water treatment providers and weed out those with questionable business practices.
“Having those associations pushing to regulate this business is going to help a lot,” Melendez said. “The people who are not regulated or not qualified are going to be out of the market so we can do the right thing for the people.”
The people are at the heart of Orbital Water Consulting’s values. Melendez started the business out of a serious concern for water quality and the health of those in his community, and every day he works to educate consumers on the importance of water quality to their well-being.
“We have to focus on that we are in the health business,” he said. “This is not only a money-making machine. We have to focus on that we’re working with people and if we do something wrong, we’re affecting an entire family."
To Melendez, healthy water is important not only for ingesting, but also for activities like teeth brushing