Fines as high as $100,000 per day – non-compliance with wastewater regulations for dairy plants
Probably the most startling presentation I heard at the recent Spring Conference of the California Dairy Industries Association was on wastewater regulatory compliance concerns for dairy plant managers. Dr. Roy Carawan, professor at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., pointed out that, under the Clean Water Act, plants that discharge wastewater into publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) face significant (“horrendous” might be a better word) fines if their wastewater is in “significant non-compliance” with the discharge permits for their plant.
Significant non-compliance has a very technical definition, but the thing to keep in mind is that the plant can be fined up to $25,000 per day per violation. In addition, each person in the management system of the company–from the waste system manager to the plant manager to the president–can be fined up to $5,000 per day per violation. Since most dairy plants have limits for at least pH, BOD, SS (suspended solids) and FOG (fats, oil and grease), this means a plant could be fined $100,000 per day and each person fined $20,000 per day. Carawan mentioned that he knew of plants that have incurred fines of millions of dollars and where people were also fined.
For individuals, however, the big concern is the jail term of up to one year for each violation. And this does not refer to a significant non-compliance, but merely to a simple violation. Certainly, not many people have actually been jailed for these violations (although Carawan says he does know of some), but with the growing emphasis on environmental responsibility, this is very likely to change.
With so much at stake, you probably wonder what you can do to protect yourself. A key thing, says Carawan, is, “Don’t sign the waste treatment permit if it has requirements that you know you can’t meet.”
Permit requirements are not set by any regulations; they are negotiated by you and your local POTW. Until you sign the permit, there are no limits to be enforced. If you have signed a permit and find you cannot meet the requirements, file for a revision. It is not unusual for companies and POTWs to file to revise a plant’s discharge permit because one or the other finds it is unsatisfactory.
The Clean Water Act mandates that individuals who reach the significant noncompliance point must have their name listed in the local paper. This brought a snicker from some of the audience at the conference, but Carawan cautioned that this is nothing to laugh at. Getting your name in the paper means someone officially knows about your violations.
“You’d better wake up,” Carawan told the audience. “You could be facing huge fines and even jail sentences.”
Utilizing cow water
Another interesting talk at the conference discussed cow water utilization. Dr. Lee Blakely, vice-president, Dairyman’s Cooperative Creamery, Tulare, Calif., described the operation at the company’s new drying plant.
The evaporator produces 276,000 gallons per day of cow water, which leaves the unit at 50|degrees~F. This water is pumped through a charcoal filter to remove all traces of chlorine, and then is purified in a reverse osmosis (RO) membrane system. The chlorine must be removed because it will damage the polysulfone thin film composite membrane in the RO unit. Water leaving the RO system is pumped through an ultraviolet-light sterilization unit (required because there is no residual chlorine in the water to provide continuing sterility) and into storage vessels. This water is used for all plant purposes except drinking and lavatories. Typical uses include boiler supply, CIP systems (including final rinse), hose stations and heating/cooling applications.
According to Blakely, it costs about 6 cents more to recover and treat 1,000 gallons of cow water than it does to pump water from a well. However, Dairyman’s was faced with state requirements on disposal water that would have cost more than 6 cents per thousand gallons.
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