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HE DAIRY industry in the United

States produced almost 500 million
pounds per day of milk products in
2006, primarily cheese, yogurt,
cream cheese, cottage cheese and
sour cream. The production process
for such foods generates high-
strength waste by-products like whey, rinse
water and cleaning chemicals. As with other SERVICING DAIRY, DISTILLERY INDUSTRIES
food manufacturing industries, the hierar-
chy of waste management is determined by

the highest return on value, with some ma-
terials going to products for human con-
sumption, followed by animal feed, fuel and
then land application as fertilizers.
Production of fuel as renewable energy
from waste by-products has become in-
creasingly attractive to the dairy manufac-
turing industry, as evidenced by Breyers
Yogurt Company’s North Lawrence Dairy,
in North Lawrence, New York, which man-
ufactures yogurt and cottage cheese. The
plant’s original waste treatment system in-
cluded production of animal feed, land ap-
plication and large aerated lagoons to treat
the wastewater. Facing a major expansion
in production capacity, the company
searched for a system that would allow
them to increase production capacity and
meet wastewater treatment regulatory
standards. In 2005, Breyers entered into a
design-build-finance agreement with Ecov-
ation to install a new, larger wastewater
treatment system that also generates re- A yogurt and cottage cheese plant in northern
newable energy. Under a separate 10-year
agreement, Ecovation operates the entire New York and a bourbon whiskey distillery in
wastewater treatment system.
Jay Straight, Engineering Manager of the Kentucky install anaerobic wastewater
Breyers plant, is pleased with the cost sav-
ings and performance of the Ecovation sys- treatment systems that reduce COD to
tem. He reports that with only one of the
plant’s three oil-fired boilers converted to regulatory discharge limits and significantly
burn both biogas and oil, the new system is
saving between 200,000 and 250,000 gallons offset fuel costs.
of #6 fuel oil per year, providing about 25
percent of total energy use. “If a company
has the capital to invest, and a high-strength Robert Spencer
liquid waste like our plant, it’s a good sys-
tem,” says Straight. “Eventually it will be
hard for industries with this type of waste to
live without a waste treatment system that
also generates so much energy.”
The primary targeted pollutants in
wastewater from the dairy manufacturing
industry are dissolved sugars, as indicated
by high chemical oxygen demand, or COD.
The acid whey from cheese processing can
have COD concentrations as high as 350,000
mg/l. To meet the regulatory discharge lim-
its of 30 mg/l BOD and 45 mg/l TSS, the Brey-
ers plant utilizes Ecovation’s patented Mobi-
lized Film Technology (MFTSM) to process
65,000 gallons/day. According to Ecovation,
the plant can handle 38,000 pounds of COD
per day, generating over 180 million BTUs Breyers Yogurt Company installed an anaerobic treatment system at its North
per day from the resulting biogas. For every Lawrence Dairy to process 65,000 gallons/day of wastewater. The patented
pound of COD converted by the anaerobic or- Mobilized Film Technology (reactor on left) can handle 38,000 pounds of
ganisms, 5.6 ft3 of methane gas is generated. COD/day.


The MFT can also handle relatively the associated biogas flux rates will
high concentrations of total suspend- not carry them out to the system.
ed solids — up to 10,000 mg/l of TSS. “The hydraulic retention time is
“Although our State discharge measured in hours, compared to the
permit standards are written in days required by lower rate sys-
BOD, Ecovation tests for COD since tems,” adds Cummings. The result
it is a two hour test compared to the is conversion of organic compounds
5 day test for BOD,” explains into biogas, which is comprised of
Straight. “That monitoring demon- methane, CO 2 , H 2 O, and trace
strates that the MFT system is re- amounts of H2S. Depending on the
moving more than 90 percent of the ultimate end use, some additional
COD prior to discharge to the aerat- cleaning of the biogas may be re-
ed finishing lagoons.” The discharge quired.
from the MFT system then joins To provide dosing to the MFT
other wastewater from the facil- treatment vessel, a series of
ity for further treatment in aer- feed nozzles alternate so that
ated lagoons, prior to discharge wastewater is pulsed into the
to the Deer River. bed to provide optimal loading
The treatment system has ex- rates. In addition, to optimize
cess capacity, which allows for collection
the microorganisms’ efficiency,
acceptance of off-site high- Recycle macro and micronutrients and
strength materials from other weirs & Treated
alkalinity are blended into the
cheese plants in the area and a wastewater wastewater before introduction
local dairy. Breyers has a per- to the MFT. An optimal nutri-
mit from the New York State ent feed results in higher effi-
Department of Environmental Media &
ciency of BOD removal and in-
Conservation to accept and pro- fixed film
creased biogas production.
cess off-site waste. “Since our biomass According to Ecovation, the
system currently has excess ca- drivers for adding an anaerobic
pacity, we are looking for other treatment to a wastewater sys-
sources of high sugar and lac- tem include industrial pretreat-
tose waste since we will benefit ment regulations that limit the
from increased biogas produc- amounts of BOD, COD and TSS
tion,” Straight says. Wastewater influent Feed nozzles that can be discharged into mu-
& recycled hydraulic nicipal sewer systems. Also,
ANAEROBIC REACTORS control system higher sewer use charges based
The Breyers plant has two on concentrations and quanti-
MFT reactors (each concrete reactor is ap- ties of those pollutants discharged provide
proximately 21 feet wide, by 35 feet long, Ecovation’s MFT is shown in
an economic incentive for industries to re-
by 25 feet high), and each is approximate- the above diagram. The
Maker’s Mark distillery is
move them prior to discharge. The MFT
ly two-thirds full of a proprietary, engi- constructing a wastewater treatment system has a relatively small foot-
neered media that provides very high sur- treatment system using the print due to the lower residence time and
face-to-volume ratios. “Our media bed technology (above). higher populations of microorganisms per
gives us the benefit of attaching the organ- unit volume. One full-time operator man-
isms to an extremely heavy particle com- ages the wastewater treatment plant.
pared to other anaerobic systems that do Additional benefits include air pollution
not employ media, but where the bugs at- reduction. Engineering Manager Straight
tach to each other, forming a granule that points out that stack tests have confirmed
does not provide nearly as much surface about a one-third reduction in sulfur diox-
area,” explains Robert Cummings, Chief ide emissions from the plant as biogas has
Technology Officer and cofounder of Ecov- replaced fuel oil.
ation. “This allows for us to treat a very The facility has greatly reduced the land
high organic load in a small area.” application of its by-products, and once
Much like an aerobic biofilter that de- some additional piping has been installed
pends on development of a biofilm on the within the next few months, the plant will
surface of the soil particles, the MFT media no longer be land applying any material.
uses a small diameter inert sand particle “The cost of contracting for land application
upon which bacteria can attach in a thin is greater than the cost of treating the
film. The high density of biofilm-coated me- waste in the MFT system,” adds Straight.
dia, compared to wastewater suspended “The regulations for land application have
solids, promotes the migration of unde- also become more stringent, and we had to
graded and inert suspended solids from the find land further away from the plant.”
reactor without displacing the active As for the regulatory approval, Straight
biomass. This is due to the greater density says Breyers was able to get an increase in
of the microorganisms on the sand particles the BOD discharge limit thanks to the high
compared to the lighter density of the sus- treatment capacity of the MFT system.
pended solids. It enables the MFT to toler- Another benefit is a reduction of odors from
ate shock loadings, since the microbial the aerobic lagoons since the first rinse ma-
films have sufficient biomass to treat the terial from cottage cheese production is
higher loads and are of such a density that treated in the anaerobic process prior to the


aerobic lagoons. Straight notes that prior day residence time, with a much higher
to the Ecovation installation, an older la- rate of reaction. It can correct itself so
goon system did not provide as much oxy- quickly that we don’t need to worry about
gen as the new aerated lagoons, and as a stopping the feed stream.”
result odor has been reduced. Bench-scale trials were done with the
MFT process to ensure the waste stream
DISTILLERY INSTALLATION could be treated in the reactor. Ecovation
In Loretto, Kentucky, the Maker’s led the design and engineering team
Mark bourbon whiskey distillery is re- putting the new system together. “We
placing its existing wastewater treatment started conceptually with the design for a
plant with an innovative solids separa- centrifuge, which is expensive, mainte-
tion process, Ecovation’s high-rate MFT nance-intensive and uses a lot of electric-
anaerobic treatment reactor, and a modi- ity,” he says. “We challenged the design
fied activated sludge system with inte- team to come up with an alternative strat-
grated clarifier and denitrifying capabili- egy. They ultimately selected a screw
ty for final polishing. The MFT reactors press, which runs on 7.5 hp motors and
are under construction and Maker’s Mark generates solids as high as 41 percent.”
expects the system will be ready for feed- Two screw presses are being installed.
ing by February 2008. The MFT reactor is being integrated into
According to Dave Pickerell, Master the existing sequencing batch reactor.
Distiller at Maker’s Mark, the new There will be three discharges — the high
wastewater treatment system enables fiber solids that can be sold as animal
the company to carry out a long-awaited feed, biogas and treated wastewater that
and necessary expansion. “The by-prod- can be discharged into the nearby creek.
uct of our distillation process is a spent Biogas will be burned in the plant’s
grain and water mixture known as ‘thick boiler, currently fueled by natural gas. A
slop’ or whole stillage,” he explains. “We scrubber is being installed to treat the
have self-service tanks filled with the biogas, which will be compressed prior to
stillage, and area dairy and cattle farm- delivery to the boiler. Reduction in natu-
ers pick up the material for animal feed. ral gas usage is anticipated to be 15 to 30
It takes about 4,000 head of cattle/day to percent. The MFT reactor will treat
consume the amount of this by-product 98,000 gallons/day and 23,000 lbs/day of
the plant generates. Farmers have diffi- COD. Deliverable energy is 85 MMB-
culty getting to us when it snows or there TUs/day; final discharge requirements
is flooding, and don’t come at all if the for the system are 30 mg/L BOD; <60
grazing grass is good. This practice of mg/L TSS; <8 mg/L NH3-N; <5 mg/L P.
giving whole stillage to farmers has cre- Pickerell says they are working with the
ated a bottleneck in our ability to expand Kentucky Division of Water to obtain its
production by 50 percent.” discharge permits. “The officials may not
The traditional alternative for distil- fully understand the technology entirely,
leries is a dry house process. Stillage is de- but that was the case as well when we
watered through a centrifuge to separate put in the sequential batch reactor,” he
the fiber from the dissolved solids. The notes. Maker’s Mark is hiring a Class 3
solids are thickened in an evaporator, wastewater treatment plant operator
then mixed back with the centrifuge cake and a dedicated mechanic to operate the
and put through a dryer. “This is a very wastewater treatment plant.
energy-intensive process,” says Pickerell, In terms of payback for the $8 million
“requiring about 40 percent of all the wastewater treatment upgrade, Pick-
plant’s energy consumption to operate. So erell says that with the substantial re-
in addition to the expansion, the second duction in natural gas consumption and
driver to installing the anaerobic system the ability to increase production of
was to be good environmental stewards, Maker’s Mark bourbon, the plant will
and select a technology that generates en- pay for itself in full the first year the
ergy. The distillery and MFT system com- product is ready to sell. “It takes about
bined will be running at about 42 percent six years to age the product, so when that
of the total energy demand of a distillery batch of whiskey comes out of the ware-
and dry house combination.” house, the system is paid for. In addition,
Maker’s Mark evaluated three differ- the MFT operates in the mesophilic
ent anaerobic digestion technologies. One range (around 100°F), but the spent
couldn’t handle the high strength of the grain coming out of the distillery is
whole stillage, and required diluting it by 200°F. The water used to make the bour-
half, or about 220,000 gallons/day of wa- bon needs to be preheated to 140°F. So
Reprinted From:
ter. The second technology had a resi- we are installing a heat exchanger to
dence time in the reactor of 20 days. “If take the heat out of the spent grain and
there was a process upset, we would have put it into the mash water via the heat
had to shut down the feed stream until exchanger, saving even more energy.” 
the microbial balance could be reestab- ADVANCING COMPOSTING, ORGANICS RECYCLING
lished,” notes Pickerell. “That would have Robert Spencer, Contributing Editor to Bio- & RENEWABLE ENERGY
required us to stop production. Ecova- Cycle, is an environmental planning consul- 419 State Avenue, Emmaus, PA 18049-3097
tion’s MFT reactors have less than a two- tant in Vernon, Vermont. 610-967-4135 •