MillerCoors first purifies the waste water from its brewery, then uses leftover “sludge” to fertilize more than 400 acres of hay. The USDA registered farm is worked by an independent contractor, says David Dixon, environmental administrator for MillerCoors.
ALBANY, Ga. -- MillerCoors has received the prestigious Industrial Waste Water Treatment Plant of the Year award for outstanding operation of an industrial pollution control facility in the category of Industrial Land Application.
David Dixon, environmental administrator for MillerCoors, thinks that's a "pretty big deal." As a side benefit, residue or "sludge" from the brewing process fertilizes more than 400 acres of hay to make profit where once was a loss.
To bring waste water to agricultural standards, MillerCoors uses an aerobic system, which encourages hungry microbes to break down the sludge. The plant's water capacity, according to Dixon, is approximately 6.5 million gallons per day. As it enters treatment, wastewater contains about three percent solids, Dixon said, which are completely removed before the water enters the Flint River.
The remaining sludge is destined to enrich the three or four crops of bahia and rye hay produced each year on MillerCoors' USDA-registered farm. The material is applied through a pipe and hydrant system utilizing a reel rain irrigator.
Dixon says the sludge serves as a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for crops. The farm land is contracted to a separate operation which harvests and stores the hay. Company sources say the hay has been produced for about 15 years.
"We're actually getting a product that's useful with a minimal amount of cost," Dixon said. "It's really kind of an ingenious way to operate a treatment plant. You can dispense with a lot of the mechanical and chemical means and practically do nothing but let the bugs in the treatment plant do their thing. The remainder you can send off as agricultural recycling products. It's about the cheapest way you can do it."
There was a day when the sludge was a real problem and even had to be carted off-site.
"We've pretty much mothballed all that big processing part of the plant. It required a lot of electricity and maintenance," Dixon said.
According to Dixon, MillerCoors was nominated to receive the award, then required to pass strict standards of safety, quality, record keeping, organization, training and operation. Its presentation came at the GAWP Industrial Water and Wastewater Conference at Calloway Gardens recently. Dixon credits the award achievement to the "world class" team of MillerCoors wastewater treatment operators Wyman Temples, Ricky Cornelius, Ozzie Remtula, Steve Tambroni and Jeff Dancer.
"We've never had an environmental violation," Dixon said. "Not just last year, but for the 35 years the plant has been here."
According to organization sources, GAWP in a not-for-profit association of "water professionals" whose chief purpose is to educate and assist those with an interest in the proper management and protection of Georgia's water resources.