Get a grip on your wastewater

Date: 04/10/21 | In: Blog

by Dave Walker, commercial director at Detectronic

Be it due to global shortages, logistical issues or changes relating to Brexit, many UK food manufacturers are facing increasing raw material costs. As such, best practice and management regarding wastewater handling & treatment in the food processing sector has never been more important.

Don’t throw money down the drain

Contrary to popular belief, implementing an effective wastewater treatment strategy doesn’t require huge capital investment, far from it.

Having worked with various food processing companies, the easiest and most cost-efficient means of ensuring you’re not breaching your consent licence and, essentially, throwing money down the drain by wasting raw materials is by monitoring your wastewater.

Bespoke wastewater monitoring

The first step to solving any wastewater issue is investigating the actual source of impact of the pollution. Irrespective of what specific food stuff may be associated, from glucose and syrup to yeast or oil, understanding precisely what is happening with your wastewater via a bespoke monitoring project is key to discovering the specific issue and generating a solution.

If your site is consistently unable to meet its wastewater consent agreement, then it’s obvious there is a problem, or problems somewhere along the process. But what is that problem?

Consult a specialist

Consulting a wastewater monitoring specialist to conduct a site visit, inspect the process and existing wastewater treatment and devise a monitoring programme will facilitate cause and effect and deliver immediate cost-savings and One-Point-Lessons (OPLs) with regards the optimisation of cleaning and maintenance regimes.

Most monitoring projects only last a few weeks. That’s all the time needed to identify any patterns, blips and anomalies and allow the data analysts to suggest appropriate remediation. However, to ensure continual consent agreement, long-term monitoring is always the best plan. Equipment used for any trial project can be kept in place and maintained on a regular basis. This way, the monitoring specialists can keep a close eye on the operating process and often alert you to any anomalies before they even occur. Best practice; done.

Case study

A well-known food manufacturer based in Nottinghamshire approached us to investigate why the process line of a world-famous snack was exceeding the consent agreement.

The production of this particular snack uses large quantities of palm oil mild/mill effluent (POME), and a quantity of that oil was ending up in the sewer network and consequently causing the site to breach its license.

Palm oil is high in Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), it is also currently very expensive (see Fig.1). Following a site visit to the factory, we recommended the installation of a COD analyser on the outlet stream of the process. The analyser was included as part of our ORAKEL APM (Asset Performance Monitor) and once installed, was able to measure what was coming out of the process at five-minute intervals.

Fig 1.

A pattern began to occur with the analyser picking up high levels of oil in the wastewater at certain times. Detailed analysis of data gathered over a four-week period from the monitor enabled our data centre team to identify the cause of the overload. A high level of palm oil was being transferred into the process and that had two distinct causes:

  • A belt on the mechanical process had failed and was pumping out neat palm oil
  • The nightshift team didn’t carry out the same cleaning and maintenance regime as the dayshift

Once the belt was repaired and the nightshift team educated to carry out and replicate the appropriate cleaning regime every time the process was undertaken, the levels of palm oil dramatically decreased.

As a result of the monitoring, the company is now achieving cost savings and is once again compliant since it is able to fully meet its respective consent agreement.

Got a grip yet?

If you’ve not got a grip on your wastewater treatment strategy, your operation could be wasting thousands of pounds on raw materials and be at risk of being heavily fined for pollutions. This, in turn, could lead to costly line closures, operational delays, missed orders and reputational damage. This is all very much avoidable!

By implementing fit-for-purpose wastewater monitoring not only will your process meet compliance and regulations, but your entire business will benefit from cost-savings, enhanced operating procedures and improved staff productivity. It’s a win-win all round. So, isn’t it time you got a grip on your wastewater?