Food and beverage companies need to pay greater attention to their wastewater treatment processes, or risk penalties and reputational risk, that is according to Barry Mann, northern area sales manager at Atana.

Atana, which is part of the WCS Environmental Engineering (WCSEE), has been an industrial wastewater treatment systems provider for over 20 years, with leading food and beverage brands depending on the company not only for treatment chemicals, but also for dissolved air flotation (DAF) systems for primary treatment.

DAF is a clarifying wastewater treatment process proven to concentrate and remove a wide range of suspended solids in wastewater at a high rate of removal. Clients produce everything from tomato ketchup to whisky, fish fingers to cheese, so wastewater streams can be complex, with solids and fats, oils and grease (FOG) to manage and dispose of appropriately.

Increasingly, the company is working with clients to close the loop on wastewater – separating out valuable resources in a circular economy approach. Where large quantities of FOG are identified in the waste stream, as happened with one client recently, it may be possible for it to be recovered and fed to an anaerobic digestor as energy stock – generating revenue.

Similarly, the large volumes of water used in the food and beverage production can be treated to a high standard and reused on site, reducing abstraction from the utility’s network.

Meeting consents

For the team of specialist engineers, the day job is addressing clients’ potential issues with their water utilities over trade effluent consents, which limit discharges to the mains sewerage network. Trade effluent is defined in the Water Industry Act (1991) as “any liquid, either with or without particles of matter in suspension in the liquid, which is wholly or partly produced in the course of any trade or industry carried out at a trade premises.”

Given the spotlight on utilities, requiring them to tighten up their own operations, industrial water users can expect to feel continuing pressure to keep their houses – or treatment processes – in order. They risk significant fines and corporate reputational risk if they do breach, which should be a major consideration, especially for sensitive public-facing brands.

Sometimes engineers are called in right at the last minute, when clients are at immediate risk of breaching an environmental consent or incurring a fine. One of the reasons is that their priority often rests on their production lines, rather than the wastewater treatment systems underpinning the whole operation.

Early intervention

In nine-out-of-ten cases, the team is able to identify and implement a solution rapidly to turn the site around. The option of hire can provide immediate enhancement to onsite wastewater treatment, meaning compliance is achieved and businesses have breathing space to plan and implement a permanent fix.

Hire of a DAF treatment allows time for businesses to conduct a full-scale operational trial, with sampling and lab testing of wastewater, to build a case for capital funds, and ensure the correct processes are installed, helping inform a permanent solution.

However, it would be better for all parties if WCSEE’s expertise was brought to bear at a much earlier stage. A site visit and high-level audit from a skilled engineer could identify potential issues around compliance and the condition and capacity of equipment long before breaches arise.

It would also examine current operating performance and identify process efficiencies that could potentially deliver major whole-life cost and energy savings.

Each DAF treatment system is customised for a specific site’s requirements. The modular design means the whole plant – including pumps, screens, clarifier and controls – can be manufactured offsite and easily transported for rapid installation.

Prior to design and build, tests are carried out using samples of the client’s site effluent at WCSEE’s purpose-built laboratory at Coalville, UK. All contaminants are identified, and a suitable treatment regime specified and trialled, with a performance guarantee given, based on that trial.

During strike of the old equipment and installation of a new plant, a temporary facility can be put in place, meeting the existing standards at a minimum. The hire option ensures continuity of onsite treatment and compliance with discharge consents.

The option to hire and then trial the solution before purchasing also means compliance is achieved quickly, without a capital expenditure commitment. Industrial companies, whose core expertise may not lie in biological effluent treatment, are often surprised – and relieved – to learn there can be a simple solution to what is often seen as a complex and urgent issue.

DAF process

For the DAF process itself, feed wastewater is dosed with a chemical that causes the solid particles to flocculate and form larger clumps, prior to entry into the DAF flotation tank.

Within the tank, an air-saturated water-stream releases microbubbles of air into the body of the tank.

This lifts the solids, which are suspended in the wastewater, causing them to float to the surface. This frothy layer is then removed by a skimmer and the clear water exits the float tank and DAF unit as clarified effluent, ready for discharge to mains sewerage or to a secondary treatment stage, depending on the site requirements.

Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF)

Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF)

Effective and sustainable

As the food and beverage sector and other industrial water users respond to increasingly tight regulations and intensifying environmental concerns, they need treatment systems that are both effective and sustainable. Along with DAF, the comprehensive range of wastewater products, systems and services provided by WCSEE which means a huge diversity of pollutants can be addressed in-house, bringing sites into compliance rapidly.

Wastewater treatment can be made more cost and energy efficient, reducing carbon emissions in line with corporate sustainability goals, and salvaging substances that would otherwise be classed as waste in a circular economy of resources – potentially delivering new streams of revenue. Given the opportunities presented by developing more resilient onsite operations and processes, there has never been a better time to revisit wastewater treatment.

WPL and Atana are now a part of WCS Environmental Engineering

WCS Environmental Engineering is a part of the WCS Group, which has the in-house skills and expertise in place to deliver full turnkey solutions from influent to effluent, with the capability to close the loop with water reuse.