Guest Column | September 15, 2015

The Upside Of Being Compelled To Treat Wastewater

Lagoon

No one enjoys being compelled to do things, especially when it dips into their wallet. For many in the industrial manufacturing and food processing sectors this is exactly what wastewater management is to them — a compulsory, bottomless money pit dug by regulatory bodies, seemingly just to make things difficult for business owners. It’s certainly not fun to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up wastewater before being allowed to send it down the sewer or directly into the environment, but there’s no denying that water quality regulations make a lot of sense. Without them, our rivers and streams would be grossly polluted, posing major threats to animal, plant, and human health. That’s what makes the whole situation such a hard pill to swallow. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

It can certainly be seen this way, but there are alternative ways to approach the problem. In fact, many facilities in the meat and poultry processing industries have found hidden value in the proper management of their wastewater. One such facility is in north Georgia, the poultry capital of the U.S.

This facility processes upwards of 400,000 birds per day, generating over two million gallons of wastewater laden with fat trimmings, oils, bone, and offal. In their wastewater treatment building they’ve laid out a process for recovering these solid materials from the wastewater and selling them to a renderer. As a result of operating this “product recovery system” the facility generates additional revenues of $2 million per year and dramatically reduces sludge disposal costs. They meet the water quality requirements for discharging to a local stream and actually come out with wastewater management figures in the black.

The key for this facility is in realizing that the old adage, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” actually applies to their business. They identified a buyer for inedible animal proteins and established a relationship where both parties get what they want at a price they agree on.

Another facility, this one in Australia, processes waste material from a beef slaughterhouse into tallow, an oily product that has a variety of industrial uses. During plant wash down some of the raw materials end up in the wastewater system and instead of attempting to biodegrade the organic materials in their wastewater lagoon, they installed a small dissolved air flotation (DAF) system to recover the product for use in their rendering process. After spending approximately $200,000 in engineering, equipment, and construction to get the system up and running, the recovered materials added 2 percent to the total plant yield, which amounts to $2 million per year in increased revenues. The system paid for itself in two months and makes a significant positive impact on the plant’s bottom line.

These and hundreds of other industrial facilities have realized major economic upsides by making the best of being compelled to manage their wastewater. They’re assessing reality and figuring out innovative ways to make being environmentally responsible also make financial sense in their operations. Maybe Einstein was on to something when he said, “in the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”

About FRC Systems International:

FRC Systems International designs and builds wastewater treatment systems for organizations across all industry sectors, including the poultry processing and rendering industries. With over 500 installations in more than 20 countries, FRC has established a reputation as a trusted wastewater solutions provider. Learn more at www.frcsystems.com or follow FRC Systems on LinkedIn.

Image credit: "20120717-OSEC-RBN-8503" U.S. Department of Agriculture © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/