Across North America, the popularity of craft beer has undergone an explosion in popularity during the past decade. Although it’s provided a significant economic shot in the arm locally, with more than 100 people now employed in Muskoka’s three largest breweries, it’s also had the unintended consequence of placing a strain on the District’s wastewater treatment infrastructure.
“Untreated wastewater discharge contravenes the District’s sewer by-law and puts additional loading on our wastewater treatment plants,” says Molly Ross with the District of Muskoka. “When untreated wastewater is discharged into the sanitary sewer system, extra chemical treatment is required and additional costs are incurred.”
Ross says that same untreated water can also produce an unsavoury odour, which can lead to complaints from the public.
In an effort to address the problem, the District is in the midst of unrolling a new, more stringent, set of bylaws, which Ross says are more in line with those used in other municipalities,.
Last year Fred Jahn, the District’s commissioner of engineering and public works, and Marcus Firman, the director of water and wastewater, met with all of the local craft breweries. They asked the breweries to work together with the District to proactively develop plans to comply with the District Sewer Use by-law in 2017.
“The District has been sensitive to the economic hardship that small businesses have had to invest in the capital costs for treatment facilities,” sasy Ross. “As such, the District allowed the breweries a full year to comply with the by-law and set interim limits to meet.”
According to Sam Corbeil, the brewmaster at Sawdust City Brewing Co. in Gravenhurst, in the past there have been very few rules and regulations when it came to wastewater.
“It was basically the wild west,” he says. “Everything went down the drain.”
Generally speaking, it requires about 7 L of water to produce 1 L of beer, says Corbeil.
While the major brewers already have wastewater treatment facilities in place, the infrastructure required was far too cost prohibitive for smaller brewers like Sawdust City. However, Sawdust has recently partnered with Toronto-based ECONSE Water Purification Systems Inc. to become a test case for the first Bru Clean System to treat their brewery wastewater onsite.
“We needed something that was a little more size appropriate and cost effective,” says Corbeil.
The new system cleans what’s left over from beer production making the water clear of solids, yeasts, phosphorus, nitrogen and more. This helps municipal water treatment facilities from being over-burdened by any by-products from the factory.
It involved the installation of four large new tanks, which allow the wastewater to settle and balance. Now, much of the biological waste can be filtered out – where it is subsequently send to a pig farmer and used for feed. The grey water can also be used, primarily for cleaning at the brewery.
The goal is to have the system completely in place by June, and to have all the kinks worked out by the end of the summer.
“We wanted to be the first with this. It’s something that brewers need to be taking into account before they open,” says Corbeil. “It will cost us initially but we’ll save money long term on things like levys. It’s also just the socially responsible thing to do.”
According to the District, Lake of Bays Brewery in Baysville is already well on their way with their own on-site treatment facility, and Muskoka Brewery is making progress as well.