Wastewater Management for Breweries


How wastewater management can cut costs and even increase ROI.


By John Haugen   |  September 3, 2016

Discover how to manage your brewery's wastewater with John Haugen, co-Founder & strategist at Third Partners sustainability consultants. 

Third Partners LogoBreweries are increasingly focused on wastewater management for several reasons. Municipal water treatment authorities across the country are charging breweries additional costs due to the high-strength wastewater streams from brewery processes. Wastewater also affects water quality in local communities. Now many breweries want to see a genuine improvement. 

These economic and environmental forces work together to make brewery wastewater treatment systems an important strategy to consider. For existing breweries, wastewater treatment on-site can produce positive ROI by increasing operational efficiency. These are the basics to get sorted from the start.

Questions for all breweries

  • Before picking a site for your new brewery or expanding operation, investigate matters such as sewer capacity and discharge limits in the area?
  • Check if there are existing or planned wastewater surcharges in the area? County, city and state rules can differ. Common requirements include: neutralize pH levels, remove solids and biological treatment.   
  • Talk to other local breweries, especially those with new facilities. Are they subject to new requirements that have not yet been issued to existing facilities? 

Strategies to treat wastewater

Image of John Haugen, co-founder of third partners sustainability advisory firmIf you’re currently operating your brewery, do you know the average total suspended solids (TSS), biological oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), and pH of your wastewater? Your brewery's processing will also play a role in water quality and levels of contaminants, including: clean-in-place (CIP), brewing, and packaging.  You can learn more about these elements here.

Other factors to consider include:

- Side streaming: The vast majority of BOD can be found in highly concentrated waste streams like yeast, trub, and waste beer. Learn more here.
- Physical screening: This can take the form of screening solids, settling tanks, and flocculation for large, small and dissolved solids.
- pH neutralization: Adding caustic or sulfuric acid in mix or trim tanks can neutralize pH to safe levels before water is sent into the local wastewater system. A buffering tank combining caustic and acid process wastewater can neutralize pH over the course of brewing and CIP activities.
- Biological Digestion: Both anaerobic and aerobic digestion are feasible strategies for wastewater treatment. Anaerobic is more expensive but supports renewable energy from biogas, low operating costs and a small footprint. Aerobic digestion requires a significant footprint, requires high energy use and operating costs.

Maintaining wastewater quality

Wastewater quality can actually decrease as you reduce overall water usage throughout your brewing process. By applying less freshwater as an input, the concentration of BOD, COD and TSS per unit of wastewater increases. Keeping an eye on these levels as you change your process is important to maintaining the overall system. 

Questions for John? Contact him today: contact@thirdpartners.com

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