When you comply with the regulations for safely manufacturing, distributing and selling your food products, and you’re constantly optimizing your manufacturing process, you might ask ‘What’s left?’ Where can you squeeze out more value and reduce costs? Wastewater could be the answer.
Because its composition is highly variable, understanding your process wastewater requires data gathered at various times and locations. But how do you get the data? Install temporary flow meters and selective samplers to collect wastewater from primary points of generation within your facility. Consider sampling discharge lines from processing machines or waste collection pits to track flow volume and waste strength trends.
Review changes in your wastewater composition over time. If the data warrants, evaluate options to retrofit your system to segregate the highest strength waste for alternate management or disposal. Recent studies completed at beverage bottling operations have shown that approximately 60 percent of the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) can be captured in the first 90 seconds of a system flush. This is important because a relatively small volume of captured wastewater will contain a majority of the waste strength, potentially translating into a reduced, or focused capital investment for wastewater treatment. It can be more cost effective to treat a smaller volume of concentrated wastewater, than to install a wastewater treatment system to treat a large volume of low strength wastewater.
A comprehensive answer will likely be different for each facility and for each processing line within a facility. The key is to strike a balance between processing protocol (with appropriate safeguards) and process wastewater efficiency. The best solution will ensure product safety and processing reliability, generate a minimum of process wastewater and deliver an acceptable return on investment.
Kevin Christensen is a senior wastewater engineer who specializes in helping food processors develop water and wastewater solutions that save money and add value. Contact Kevin
Rick Viviani manages SEH’s Food and Beverage team and helps connect clients with SEH’s technical solutions providers. Contact Rick