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Common brewery wastewater restrictions

By April 7, 2016March 4th, 2022Capacity, General reading, Lab stuff, Treatment

Let’s hope you have no wastewater restrictions, this is still quite common.  However here are some common brewery wastewater restrictions and what you can do about them.  This list is kind of in descending order, most common at the top.

  1. pH
  2. BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand)
  3. TSS (Total Suspended Solids)
  4. Volume
    • Gallons per day
    • Gallons per minute
  5. Temperature
  6. NH4-N (Ammonia-Nitrogen)
  7. TKN (Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen)
  8. Total P (Total Phosphorus)
  9. Sulfate

I have one client in Australia who is faced with every one of these restrictions and more, and the restrictions are very tight!  Many others brewers scattered around the US are faced with many of the above.

What to do about restrictions like this? Hope you don’t get any of them for starters, contact me next. Wastewater restrictions are not the type of issue you want to be surprised by.  What type of restrictions you face would hopefully be determined early in the discovery phase of site selection.  It should even be part of your business model and a big factor in where your brewery is located.

Start with negotiation; some limits are logical, others are not. Are other local businesses faced with these restrictions? If so, what are they doing about them? If not, is the brewery being singled out?  I often hear stories from cities that the wastewater treatment plant operators can often smell beer at the headworks.  This is obviously not a good sign if you are a brewer in that town, but if they are singling your brewery out it’s because of instances like this.

pH limits are very common. However sometimes they’re enforced, other times not. Sometimes they’re fairly loose, other times very strict. pH adjustment systems do exist, they can be automated or manual. Brewery Wastewater Design regularly designs pH adjustment systems for breweries of all sizes.  For the most part, your wastewater has to be in compliance with whatever limits you have 24/7. But if your wastewater is out of compliance, what happens? Nothing? Fines? No building permit? The city is pouring concrete down your sewer?  Your company name mentioned as out of compliance in the newspaper? It’s good to know this, then you can justify the expense- or not- or installing a pH adjustment system.

Volume restrictions can be tricky, especially if you plan to grow your brewery. There are techniques to address this, read this page on EQ tanks for starters.

A temperature restriction is not super common. Sometimes you will encounter them in a small town where there is concern the brewery effluent may raise the influent temperature at the wastewater treatment plant.

For the rest of the restrictions, a common theme will develop. Side streaming. It’s cheap and effective, but not free or trouble free. Basically, don’t put your concentrated waste materials down the drain. Side stream them and dispose of them as is. Things like spent yeast, trub, waste beer, etc. This is a relatively small amount of material, but it contains the most nutrients and solids. These nutrients show up in the form of BOD, TSS, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfate. Brewery wastewater is generally low in phosphorus and sulfate.

Fats, oils, and greases (FOG) are a big deal for municipal wastewater collection systems. Fortunately brewery wastewater has virtually none of this. The primary concern here is restaurants, and a properly maintained grease trap addresses this concern.

As usual, please contact me for further information on any of this material. Thank you, John

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