Effective Dairy Wastewater Treatment Technology
By Alex Wright, ClearCove’s Dairy Technology Solutions Manager
There are a number of critical environmental challenges facing dairy processors today. To stay competitive, it is imperative dairy processors address these challenges to mitigate their operational risks and reduce costs.
- Water scarcity is a real and growing issue, both in the U.S. and worldwide. According to the Innovation Center for US Dairy, dairy-related water use represents approximately 5.1% of total US water withdrawals. In addition, five of the top 10 dairy producing states are among the top 10 states suffering from the highest levels of water scarcity. Water scarcity not only increases operational costs; it also limits production levels in facilities—further impacting profitability. Process wastewater offers one of the largest opportunities for water recovery, allowing for reuse in CIP, washing, irrigation and other operational processes. The ClearCapture™ system by ClearCove is able to remove insoluble organics and inorganics from wastewater more effectively and efficiently than any other technology in the marketplace today. This results in the recovery of more water for reuse—up to 90% –significantly reducing the water footprint in processing facilities.
- Sewer surcharges, fines, and violations are also on the rise. These charges can often amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars based on the wastewater that processors are sending to the sewer—a significant burden. Alongside this, the fines and penalties for violating permit levels are also becoming increasingly punitive, and in turn raising the financial and legal risks facing processors. On-site wastewater treatment that can remove high levels of organics and solids prior to being discharged to the sewer provides producers a significant payback, mitigating the aforementioned risks. As an example, I know of one small processor (who’ll remain anonymous) that generates 15,000 gallons per day of wastewater. This may not seem like a lot when compared to the larger processors. But, that processor is expected to incur surcharges of circa $240,000 per year, increasing to $330,000 per year by 2020. Clearly this situation is not financially sustainable. By installing the ClearCapture™ system and enabling process wastewater reuse, this surcharge can be eliminated completely, or reduced to approximately $20,000 per year if discharged to the sewer.
- Environmental standards are tightening to protect the watershed, air and land. Permit limits are becoming increasingly difficult to meet, leaving some processors out of compliance with regulations. States like Wisconsin and Vermont have begun to set new limits for nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen to protect the surrounding watershed, making it more difficult for processors to continue their current wastewater disposal practices, such as land application. It is necessary for producers to deploy effective and reliable on-site wastewater solutions to combat these pressures. This is another problem that can be solved with ClearCove’s ClearCapture™ system, with higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness compared to other technologies. The levels of phosphorous and nitrogen can be reduced to the most stringent discharge levels. Moreover, the phosphorous and nitrogen can then be used for beneficial purposes—notably as a fertilizer—depending on the needs in question.
- Energy costs are rising, which is further exacerbated by growing usage levels. Implementation of energy-efficient technologies and processes are imperative to ensure ongoing operational profitability. Innovative, low energy biology-free wastewater treatment solutions provide benefits that conventional energy-intensive solutions—e.g., DAF and the myriad biological systems—simply cannot deliver. Moreover, by removing problematic microorganisms or bugs from the equation, the hassle is also removed. This means that dairy producers can then focus on what they do best—producing delicious dairy products—versus having to play the role of a wastewater treatment plant operator. ClearCapture’s biology-free technology can lead to sizeable savings in both energy and chemical costs, from 40-80%, when compared to traditional industry technologies, such as DAF and aeration systems etc.
In conclusion, ClearCove’s ClearCapture™ technology addresses and alleviates many of the environmental and economic challenges facing dairy processors. It is a non-biological, physical-chemical (light) process that provides comprehensive Food and Beverage wastewater treatment solutions. The system removes the majority of solids and organics from the wastewater to reduce or even eliminate sewer surcharges, and provide reuse quality water.