Effective Treatment of Brewery Wastewater

How To Treat Industrial Wastewater In Breweries
The brewery industry is the most traditional industry that manufactures alcoholic beverages. Beer production requires a large quantity of water, especially in the brewing and filling processes. Even though the production process varies in the different breweries, these industries discharge significant effluents. The brewery industry is considered an important economic segment of the country. However, the byproducts generated, including mashing and yeast surplus, are responsible for causing pollution when mixed with the effluents such as sugar, soluble starch, ethanol and volatile fatty acids. 

Wastewater produced contains very high concentrations of organic matter and nutrients and hence requires treatment, as the effluents formed do not meet regulatory standards. This treatment can be time-consuming and costly due to the need for high oxygen levels to offset the high levels of BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) needed to aerate and clarify the water. 

The disposal of the untreated or partially treated effluent into the water bodies can cause severe pollution problems since the effluents contain organic compounds that require oxygen for degradation. Excessive nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the released effluent could also result in algae bloom and cause a disturbance in the water body ecosystem. In order to curb pollution, adopting proper treatment measures at breweries is key to tackling public health and environmental concerns.

Now let us dive deeper to understand the hazards that are present in the brewery wastewater.

Understanding the Characteristics of Brewery Wastewater Effluents
Before understanding the characteristics of wastewater, let’s know the different ways the brewery plants use to discharge the wastewater. Some of the ways wastewater is discharged from the brewery plants are:

  1. Directly into the waterbody (nearby lakes, oceans, rivers)
  2. Directly into Municipal STP after undergoing pretreatment or partial treatment
  3. Into the brewery’s effluent treatment plant

The composition of brewing effluents can fluctuate as it depends on various processes such as fermentation, packaging, raw material handling etc. Although breweries use ingredients such as barley, the aftereffect requires a complex process to treat the water and render it safe for release. The components utilized during the brewing process may seem harmless. However, the wastewater discharged contains high amounts of biodegradable organic compounds and mainly consists of sugar, soluble starch, ethanol, fatty acids, etc., leading to high BOD/COD levels. 

The primary characteristics of the brewery wastewater effluents are: 

  1. Low pH levels
  2. High levels of sugar and alcohol
  3. High levels of TSS levels 
  4. High levels of COD/BOD levels

To get rid of these effluents, different environmental and socio-economic criteria can be considered when deciding on the wastewater treatment plant for the brewery industry. One can opt for a process that can cope with the large fluctuation in organic load and wastewater characteristics and ensure the operating cost is as low as possible. 

What are the different treatment methods?

The wastewater discharged by the breweries is characterized by the parameters mentioned above. Large breweries undergo a preliminary treatment before releasing it into the municipal sewer. However, some breweries treat their own wastewater by undergoing physical, chemical or biological treatment methods. 

Physical Method

The physical method is the first treatment method where a physical force is applied to remove contaminants. Since the brewery wastewater contains grains like barley, this method is ideal for removing coarse solid matte. It is a passive process, like sedimentation, to allow suspended pollutants to settle out or float to the top. This method most often results in incomplete contaminant removal or separation.

Chemical Method

Chemicals are added to the wastewater to eliminate pollutants present in it. Chemical pretreatment consists of pH adjustments, coagulation, and flocculation. The acidity or alkalinity can affect the environment and wastewater treatment system. In this method, it is necessary to maintain the pH between 6 and 9 to protect healthy organisms. Coagulation and flocculation are physicochemical processes commonly used to remove colloidal material or colour from water and wastewater. Using this process, smaller particles form larger aggregates that can be removed using physical methods. 

Biological Method

The biological treatment process converts the biodegradable organic pollutants present in the wastewater. The brewery effluent contains both chemical and microbial contaminants. The biological process is one of the most preferred ways to get rid of these contaminants. 

When compared with physicochemical and chemical processes, the major advantage of undergoing biological treatment methods are:

  1. It uses microbes to treat the effluents. 
  2. Efficiency in removing 80% to 90% BOD/COD levels. 
  3. It is cost-effective. 

These processes can be either aerobic or anaerobic. However, the anaerobic process is considered successful in treating the brewery effluents in most industries. In India, most industries consist of an Up Flow Anaerobic Sludge reactor followed by an aeration system. 

Wastewater in a UASB reactor flows in an upwards direction passing through a thick dense bed of anaerobic sludge. 

After the water is treated from the biological treatment process, it is safely discharged into the water body as the water quality levels meet the standards. But, with the rise in water scarcity, can it be reused? 

The treated wastewater generated can be reclaimed for agriculture, recreational use, and other industrial processes by opting for biological treatment. However, while treating water using biological processes, some treatment plants undergo problems such as not getting rid of foaming and scum issues, foul odour, not maintaining BOD/COD levels, excess sludge formation, etc. To overcome this, industries can use our revolutionary product Cleanmaxx ANB. It contains facultative anaerobic bacteria that can stabilise the anaerobic system of its treatment plant. Our eco-friendly product is highly effective in the wastewater brewery plant. 

Some of the key benefits of using Cleanmaxx ANB are-

  1. Maximum reduction in BOD/COD levels along with odour and colour of treated wastewater
  2. Minimizes sludge volumes and enhances biogas production capacity
  3. It gives faster commissioning and reduces recovery time after an upset.

We know wastewater can be an alternative source since industrialisation and urbanisation have accelerated water pollution, making it a limited resource for water supply.  However, we believe the demand for water reuse in the brewery industry is expected to increase at an unprecedented rate. Consequently, increasing need for processes capable of achieving an efficient treatment is possible if we use eco-friendly solutions. 

We hope our blog helped you understand the importance of treating wastewater in the brewery industry in the right way to help maintain our ecosystem. Which methods does your brewery industry use to treat wastewater? Let us know in the comments below, or you can also write to us at karen.sam@organicabiotech.com

Post by Karen Sam

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