As I’ve written about before, food & beverage facilities continue to see an increase in costs for their water and wastewater needs. Surcharges from local publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), increased regulations, and pressure to be environmentally friendly means it could be worth investing in wastewater treatment systems instead of sending all the waste stream directly to a municipality.
Membrane bioreactors (MBRs) and membrane moving bed bioreactors (MBBRs) have become increasingly popular. They decrease biochemical oxygen demands (BOD) and total suspended solids (TSS) removal rates, and they have a smaller footprint than typical biological treatment systems.
MBRs combine a membrane process, like microfiltration or ultrafiltration, with a biological wastewater treatment process. A membrane bioreactor is essentially a version of the conventional activated sludge, but usually much smaller. MBBRs are similar, except they incorporate a reactor that has media within the aeration step.
What do you need to know?
MBR and MBBR treatment systems decrease energy consumption, require less operator attention, and provide reliable treatment and solid effluent numbers. They also offer options for full automation and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). Incorporating membranes into conventional treatment offers improved treatment, but keep in mind the membranes and system must be protected. Upfront screening, and fats, oil and grease (FOG) treatment are essential before sending the waste stream into these biological treatment systems. And with any biological treatment system, solids will be produced. Usually, dewatering will be included in the treatment plan since solids come out of the MBR at 1%. Most operational expenses for these types of systems come from chemicals and hauling solids off site.
So, do MBRs or MBBRs make sense for you?
I have seen this technology work for multiple food & beverage facilities. Successful projects began by evaluating the proposed site, process discharge, and space requirements. Decisions on type of treatment typically begin with defining performance requirements and considering technical data for evaluating treatment alternatives. Typical considerations include NPDES compliance requirements, existing infrastructure resources, surcharges from local POTWs, future operational and regulatory requirements along with a defined performance criteria.
Do MBRs or MBBRs make sense for you? Maybe. Or maybe not. There are many factors to consider, but this treatment technology has proven to be a viable option for many facilities in the food & beverage industry. Do your homework, but definitely put these treatment options on your list of potential treatment systems for your site.