Removing the Biology (and Pain) from Brewery Wastewater Treatment

January 15th, 2016 • by Jason Fox
Jason Fox

Jason Fox

Jason Fox has over 15 years of professional brewing experience in addition to several years overseeing production in a medium-sized food manufacturing plant. He operated an aerobic treatment system while at the brewery and worked directly with the wastewater treatment plant operator at the food plant. He is now the Technology Solutions Manager for Food and Beverage at ClearCove™, and has spoken at MBAA conferences as well as the Great Lakes Water Conservation conference on the topic of brewery wastewater treatment.

Time and again, activated sludge systems—aerobic or anaerobic—have failed to effectively treat brewery wastewater.

The challenge lies in the variability of effluent characteristics. It is this variability which upsets the organisms responsible for removing organics. While these systems can sometimes work well, organisms, like people, are sensitive creatures. And once they’re upset, it can take weeks to reestablish an effective biomass for treatment.

There are different companies and technologies in the marketplace addressing this challenge. The treatment of brewery wastewater is no longer dependent on complicated biological processes. For example, the company I work for uses a patented physical and chemical process for removing the organics from waste streams. High-strength brewery wastewater enters one end of the system, and clean water exits through the other end—ready for reuse in the brewery. The system uses few moving parts and requires minimal attention from brewery personnel. This enables brewers to focus on what matters most: brewing beer.

With effective wastewater treatment technologies, sewer surcharges can become a distant (albeit painful) memory: permit limits for land application or other environmental discharge can be met. This is essential for breweries without a municipal sewer to tie into.

Eliminating the brewery industry’s reliance on biology and expensive reactor systems has become a reality due to Crossflow Reverse Osmosis Membrane Technology (CROMT). And not having to handle large tanks full of bacteria also means a significantly smaller footprint is needed, which also means a massive reduction in the capital investment required to treat wastewater.

Thanks to today’s membrane technology, a single piece of brewery wastewater equipment is all that’s required. Wastewater treatment technology can now be incorporated into business plans much in the same way a boiler or chiller would have been in years gone.

Breweries are proliferating across the country. As a result, they are being required to treat their own wastewater. Planning ahead is imperative to avoid costly regulatory issues down the road.