3 Ways to Reduce Wastewater by Working With Your Manufacturing Customers

Manufacturing/industrial operations contribute to a city’s revenue stream when their process wastewater is sent to city treatment plants. Manufacturers need to get rid of their excess water, and cities are the ones that can take it away. This relationship often comes at a cost for the manufacturer. But what if the city’s system is at capacity for flows or nutrients?

When a city’s wastewater treatment facilities are at or near capacity for flows or nutrients, and expansion or replacement of the facility isn’t in the cards, they have to look elsewhere. One place wastewater can be reduced is through a city’s manufacturing/industrial customers. Here are three ways your city can work with your manufacturing/industrial customers to help them reduce their wastewater outputs.

1 – Help them optimize their wastewater flows.

A food processing facility generates wastewater throughout the day, but during product changeover or sanitation cycles, wastewater volume and wastewater characteristics can change quickly.

In fact, during sanitation, a facility may discharge up to 80 percent of its daily wastewater flow in a four- to six-hour period. Wastewater characteristics like organic strength, temperature, acidity and toxicity also change. Downstream technologies (such as flow equalization, pH adjustment and pretreatment) can help mitigate these conditions. But manufacturers often avoid these mitigation measures because they can be costly and consume their profit margins.

What can they do instead?

Look upstream. They can work to identify ways to reduce wastewater flows by opting for clean-in-place program intervals based on scientific, demonstrated results. SEH Senior Wastewater Engineer Steve Peterson says when manufacturers work with their quality assurance/quality control team, machine operators, control logic programmers and process equipment suppliers, it can be an effective way to determine precise requirements for sanitation processes. This can help reduce overall flow processed by municipalities. Once they have developed standard processes, they can use automated sensors and controls to lock down procedures and take the guesswork out of the process.

Manufacturing and industrial customers can use sensors and flow meters to maintain procedures that best optimize wastewater streams.

2 – Help them better understand their process wastewater.

Because process wastewater composition is highly variable, your manufacturing and industrial customers can better understand their process wastewater by gathering data at various times and locations. But how do they get the data? They can install temporary flow meters and selective samplers to collect wastewater from primary points of generation within their facility. They should consider sampling discharge lines from processing machines or waste collection pits to track flow volume and waste strength trends.


They can also review changes in their wastewater composition over time. If the data warrants, your manufacturing/industrial customers should evaluate options to retrofit their system to segregate the highest strength waste for alternate management or disposal. Recent studies completed at beverage bottling operations have shown that approximately 60 percent of the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) can be captured in the first 90 seconds of a system flush. This is important because a relatively small volume of captured wastewater will contain a majority of the waste strength, potentially translating into a reduced, or focused capital investment for wastewater treatment. It can be better for both cities and manufacturers to treat a smaller volume of concentrated wastewater, than to treat a large volume of low strength wastewater.

3 – Help them capture process wastewater for re-use.

Does your manufacturing/industrial customers’ process wastewater exhibit periods of relatively low organic or chemical impacts? If their facility has non-critical operations, they may be able to safely reuse wastewater in those processes. Steve Peterson, SEH wastewater leader notes a plant’s final sanitation rinse can be suitable to use as a first flush during product changeover or sanitation. 

If it can’t be used in the sanitation process, can it be used elsewhere in the facility? Some processors reuse low strength wastewater as floor wash down. And if it’s clean enough, manufacturers should consider whether bypass of on-site pretreatment, discharge to final effluent, or direct discharge to the municipality is feasible.

wastewater treatment facility
Reusing manufacturing wastewater can help facilities save on the amount of process wastewater they discharge.

Wrapping it up

If your municipality is at capacity for wastewater flows or nutrients, and you can’t build new or retrofit your system, turning to manufacturing/industrial customers could be the key. By working with these customers, you can help them to reduce their wastewater flows. Reduced flows from industries means less wear and tear on your city’s wastewater system, and the longer it’s likely to last.

About the Expert

Steve Peterson

Steve Peterson oversees SEH’s wastewater practice in Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan and is dedicated to helping cities make the most of their wastewater infrastructure. Contact Steve

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