Does Your Craft Brewery Have a Wastewater Plan?
Something most craft brewers probably don't think about when they begin production is what will happen to the effluent - the wastewater - that remains after the brewing process is complete. Craft brewers end up with an average of three gallons of wastewater for each gallon of beer produced - and this is far below the large brewery average of seven gallons wastewater per gallon of beer. Even so, the wastewater produced while making beer can be taxing to local water treatment facilities and can disturb surrounding ecosystems if it isn't treated properly.
The effluent produced in beer-making typically contains high levels of suspended solids, mainly the yeasts, hops, other grains and sugars leftover after brewing. These solids can't be broken down easily by water treatment plants, and they may consume too much oxygen in the process, throwing off the delicate balance of bacteria and microorganisms that sewage plants rely on. Brewing by-products may also be too acidic or caustic, which can cause further problems in treating the water.
When local communities realize that craft breweries are putting undue burdens on their water treatment systems, they often begin to require the breweries to treat their wastewater or to pay higher fees so that their waste can be accommodated responsibly. Breweries can prevent these consequences from occurring and can be good stewards of their local environment by putting systems in place to treat their wastewater before it reaches the local facilities.
Many craft brewers are concerned with being responsible about their wastewater treatment.
Several companies have come to the forefront to offer wastewater treatment systems to breweries looking for just such a solution.
Birko offers filter bags that can remove solids from wastewater before it enters the treatment system and pH controllers that can bring the pH of a brewery's wastewater to a more neutral range for treatment, which is required by many local water treatment plants.
GEA offers wastewater treatment systems that reduce water use and use wastewater to generate energy that can be used at the brewery or sold back to the power company.
Natural Systems, a California-based company, offers comprehensive water treatment systems that use electrical current to separate solids from liquid waste and treat it more economically. Some waste can be turned into energy to further offset costs.
Consolidated Treatment Systems of Ohio offers contained units to remove solids from wastewater and achieve acceptable levels for water entering local treatment plants. They market mainly to homes and small businesses, and could work for smaller craft breweries needing a simple solution to wastewater filtration.
Another solution for smaller craft breweries may be as simple as sending wastewater to an empty fermentation tank so that solids can settle before the wastewater is pumped out to the sewer. Determining the best way to deal with your brewery's wastewater may not have been part of your initial business plan, but most breweries will need to deal with the effluent issue as they grow and increase their production or when they move to a larger location.
If you liked this article, you may also like: Systems for Brewery Wastewater Management.