News Feature | July 3, 2018

Brewery Pollution Challenges Water Quality

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

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Wastewater from breweries is creating pollution problems in Lake Champlain.

In Burlington, VT, craft beer is a thriving trade, the Associated Press reported. But wastewater from breweries is challenging for lakeside communities. Vermont has orders from the U.S. EPA to improve water quality in the lake.

“The city released 1.8 million gallons (6.8 million liters) of partially treated wastewater into the lake earlier this month, forcing the closure of city beaches. State officials said part of the problem was wastewater from breweries and food producers that upset the biological balance of the treatment plant,” the AP reported.

For Department of Public Works Director Chapin Spencer, the origin of the problem is clear.

“The cumulative effect of these multiple industrial beverage and food producers has presented a challenge for us,” he said.

Spencer called on breweries to improve their wastewater management practices. Breweries produce large volumes of wastewater and incur major wastewater costs.

“On average, it takes about 4 to 5 gallons of water to produce a gallon of beer, making it a water-intensive industry. There’s been an increase in recent years in the number of breweries in the city — now about a half dozen — and the volume each one is producing, Spencer said,” according to the AP.

“Brewers could try to reduce the organics in the waste. An example would be side streaming, taking the organic waste, such as spent grain, and diverting it to farms or composting facilities,” the report said.

Some breweries have tried to adopt sustainable practices.

“Burlington-based Magic Hat Brewing Company has a digester that converts grain and wastewater into energy, for example,” Environmental Leader reported.

Meanwhile, Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR, prides itself for using environmentally-friendly practices, including restoring “one billion gallons of water into the Deschutes River every year to offset what we use to brew our...tasty beer.”

“Until now, the brewery has relied on a few methods to dispose of the approximately 100,000 gallons of wastewater the brewing process involves on a daily basis, including paying for the municipal facility to treat the water and shipping so-called high strength wastewater (that which includes yeast or even rejected beer) to farmers who use the nutrient-rich liquid to aid their crop growth,” Food & Wine reported.

Image credit: "Cheers," Lars Plougmann © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/