Water and Wastewater Issues in Food Processing Facilities
Water and wastewater are common inputs and outputs of most food processing facilities. Even in a state where water is abundant, water use can add up to significant costs for a facility. Therefore, conserving water and reducing the amount of BOD, TSS, Phosphorus and other materials in your wastewater can not only save you money, but can also reduce your facility’s environmental impact.
Water is commonly used for cleaning procedures, which can result in food waste being sent to the sewer with the water. This process wastes money because some product can be recovered and may be sold to other industries or used as animal feed. Additionally, flushing product down the sewer lines adds to your facility’s BOD loading to the wastewater treatment facility. High loading levels impact the treatment facility in your community as then it has to treat the water more stringently; those costs are passed back to your facility and can cost thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
Implementing water conservation and pollution prevention strategies into your facility can help you reduce the cost of water and wastewater in your facility.
Process/ equipment modifications
Some ideas for reducing water use in your facility may include:
- Replacing traditional faucets with low-flow faucets
- Using dry caustic peeling methods for fruits and vegetables
- Shutting off water during breaks or non-production hours
- Installing water control units and flow meters
- Reusing clean process water for pallet cleaning or other outside cleaning procedures
- Reusing clean process water in other areas of the process, where appropriate
Operational and housekeeping changes
Opportunities to reduce waste being sent down the drain in your facility may include:
- Placing catch pans under potential overflows/leaks
- Monitoring fill machines
- Covering drains during loading and unloading
- Implementing pre-cleaning and dry cleanup procedures
The following resources may help you reduce your water and wastewater discharge.
- Fact Sheet: Phosphorus: Reducing Releases from Dairy Processing Facilities (2011). Cleaning production lines, scraping food preparation vats, cleaning and rinsing equipment, losing product to the drain and floor cleaning are all ways phosphorus enters wastewater.
- Fact Sheet: Phosphorus: Reducing Releases from Meat Processing Facilities (2008). Meat packing operations can be significant sources of phosphorus released to wastewater treatment plants. Cleaning and rinsing of equipment, product lost to the drain and floor, and cleaning chemicals are all ways phosphorus enters the wastewater.
- Fact Sheet: Wastewater Reduction Options for Poultry Processing (2008). Poultry processing plants contribute large BOD loads, as well as total suspended solids (TSS) and phosphorus to wastewater. A number of steps can be taken to reduce poultry processing plant waste.
- Fact Sheet: Non-Contact Cooling Water (2007). There may be opportunities to reduce water use in your facility by reusing water for non-contact cooling.
- Case Study: Supermom’s Saves $235,000 Yearly by Reducing Waste (2004). Supermom’s saves at least $235,000 a year through their waste reduction efforts. Supermom’s has substantially reduced their solid waste, introduced energy and labor efficient technologies and reduced water treatment costs.
- Case Study: Schroeder Milk Saves $400,000 through Product Savings and Water Conservation (2002). Using a pollution prevention team, the company identified opportunities for process improvement, saving over 13 million gallons of water every year.
- Source Article: AMPI Team Decides to Reduce Waste (pg1). The Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) plant in Dawson reduced water use and cut the amount of solids in its wastewater by engaging employees in a waste reduction team.
- Intern Summary: Dairy Plant Reduces Water Use and BOD Saving Over $26,000 (1999). The plant decreased water use by fine tuning the computer programming that ran its clean-in-place (CIP) systems which clean and sanitize equipment. The company saved over 8.5 million gallons of water and over $20,000 annually.
- Intern Summary: Sparta Foods Saves Nearly $10,000 through Water Conservation (1997). The water conservation options implemented reduced water use by nearly 1.9 million gallons a year and saved almost $10,000 annually.
- Intern Summary: MnTAP Intern at USDP reduces waste in bottling process (2008). United States Distilled Products hosted an intern who determined waste reduction strategies for the bottling process.