Like many other food suppliers, meat suppliers continue to see a rise in surcharges, along with more stringent regulations. Because of this, they are dealing with many difficult decisions surrounding water and wastewater. On top of the list are wastewater operations and treatment costs, and how to deal with high biochemical oxygen demands (BOD) and fats, oil, and grease (FOG) surcharges from the publicly-owned treatment works (POTW) system. Now, they are also being hit with nutrient surcharges like phosphorus.
All of this is causing meat processing managers to realize it may be worth investing capital into building a wastewater treatment system, or to increase the level of their current pretreatment plan to reduce overall effluent costs.
I recently had the opportunity to present on this topic at the Master Meat Crafter Training Conference. Held at the state-of-the-art Meat Science & Animal Biologics Discovery building on the University of Wisconsin-Madison Campus, the conference included meat suppliers from all over the US and discussed topics such as beef harvesting, meat quality, chilling systems, animal biologics, microbial control and wastewater operations and treatment.
I focused on highlighting when it makes sense for the meat processing facilities to use wastewater pretreatment, direct discharge, or a full waste stream treatment, backing up the discussion with data from past projects. Each treatment option brings a different level of costs, permits, and operational support, so it is important to choose the right solution for the client’s unique situation.
When it comes to treating I discussed membrane bioreactors (MBRs) and membrane moving bed bioreactors (MBBRs), along with many other biological treatment systems. Aerobic and Anaerobic systems continue to be the best options for this type of waste stream. MBRs and MBBRs have become increasingly popular because of their smaller footprint and their ability to remove high levels of biochemical oxygen demands (BOD) and total suspended solids (TSS). A membrane bioreactor is essentially a version of a conventional activated sludge process, except they incorporate a reactor that has media within the aeration step. Anaerobic biological systems have come a long way in the past ten years. Anaerobic treatment can also provide an option of utilizing biogas for energy production, which is beneficial from a sustainability standpoint. It is important to investigate the wastewater analysis to provide meat producers with the best treatment option.
As we have mentioned before, a good place to start for meat processors, or any food supplier for that matter, is to bring in the experts. Get a competent water/wastewater treatment specialist and engineer to do an evaluation of their water and wastewater system and processing facility. They can then provide recommendations for a treatment plan.