News Feature | February 24, 2015

Beer Byproduct May Help Fight Nitrates

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

A wastewater treatment plant is turning to beer as a solution to its problems—but not in a depressing way.

"In a region where beer seems to flow like water, Boulder is weighing a project that could be mutually beneficial to producers of both liquids," Daily Camera reported.

The city of Boulder, CO, has to reduce the amount of nitrate in its treatment process. It is in talks with a brewery to provide a new food source (carbon) for the bacteria that eat up nitrogen.

Wastewater process optimization specialist Cole Sigmon is behind this idea. He proposed that perhaps brewery waste could be used as the food source, 9 News reported. He contacted Avery Brewery about the idea, requesting weak wort, a byproduct of the brewing process.

"It provides a source of sugars for the bacteria we use here to do the work of wastewater treatment," Sigmon said, per the report.

"The microorganisms process nitrate nitrogen in a similar manner to how humans process oxygen in their lungs, but only when the organisms have enough carbon on which to feed, [a Boulder spokesman noted]," Daily Camera reported.

This sustainable approach piqued the interest of managers at the brewery, which makes such beers as India Pale Ale and White Rascal.

"Especially in the craft industry, we all want to be responsible stewards of the environment," Avery director of operations Steve Breezley said, per the 9 News report.

The next step?

"Boulder will build a holding tank on Avery's new brewery property in Gunbarrel. The city will then truck the water from the brewery to its wastewater facility. Boulder officials say the move will make the process much more efficient and save the city more than $50,000 each year. If the plan is approved, the plant could begin using the material as early as the fall," the report said.