Whether breweries are crafting lagers, ales, or even hard ciders, each of these beverages had to undergo a unique brewing process that also yields an undesirable byproduct – wastewater. Brewery wastewater is usually high in sugar, alcohol, contaminant solids, and has an acidic pH. The sugar and alcohol combine to form high BOD: biochemical oxygen demand. BOD in wastewater can be detrimental to brewery equipment, corroding parts and reducing the lifecycles of critical components.
Brewery wastewater must be properly treated to make it safe to flow through a city’s water infrastructure and in accordance with the Clean Water Act. Untreated wastewater pollutes rivers and can render a brewery noncompliant with environmental/regulatory laws. In the past, municipal treatment plants (POTWs) were able to effectively treat brewery wastewater as part of an overall community wastewater treatment plan. But today, changing regulations and an aging, overloaded POTW infrastructure not originally designed to handle the vast quantities of wastewater produced by expanding breweries has decreased the performance capabilities and efficacy of these POTWs. So now, breweries must factor in the financial costs of treating nutrient pollution and bacteria in their effluent water discharged to municipal treatment plants, especially when expanding production. Finally, a brewery must assess the blow its corporate image might take if the company is seen by the public as a water polluter.
Brewery wastewater is introduced to contaminants during the 4-part brewing process – malting, mashing, boiling and fermenting. Treatment is designed to address pH levels, the concentration of BOD and TSS (total suspended solids). When it comes to water minimization, efficiency measures have enabled breweries to cut water-to-beer ratios in half with most plants in the 7:1 barrel of water to barrel of beer ratio, and leading breweries at a 3:1 ratio. Leaks tend to be a huge source of water waste at breweries. Installing flow meters has allowed even small brewers to identify and correct waste due to leaks.
Breweries typically find that an on-site wastewater treatment system is the most cost-effective solution. Smaller companies have discovered it is beneficial to install pre-treatment units to meet local regulatory requirements. According to the Brewers Association water/wastewater manual, breweries should consider pre-treatment systems when annual surcharges approach $250,000. However, this number can change due to regional constraints where surcharge rates are changing, places where water scarcity is an issue, areas where there is a high density of competing breweries, and other factors.
Breweries in regions where the population is small but the load from the brewery is high should also consider different treatment options. This was the case for a brewery in Michigan where they contribute ~3% of the flow but 40% of the organic loading to the POTW. Another example is Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, CA. The company shipped its wastewater to Oakland for treatment at the East Bay Municipal Utility District to reduce the load on the Petaluma, CA municipal plant.
There can be monetary value in treating wastewater on-site. Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR invested over $11 million in constructing its own treatment facility. Millions of gallons of water will be removed from the Bend sewer systems annually, saving on those disposal fees. Plus, building for additional capacity allows for potential income from nearby beer companies. Also, the waste will be used to power generators, helping to further cut operational expenses.
DMP focuses on wastewater treatment solutions so that breweries can focus on beer production. We provide assessments and recommendations to help our clients spend their time on their core mission while we support them in ours – treating wastewater.
We can provide a comprehensive solution including, but not limited to, water minimization, reducing or eliminating surcharges and providing water treatment chemicals. To learn about a unique treatment solution for your brewery, start a discussion with us today. Ask about our Performance Guarantee Program.