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Wastewater Treatment Saves Turkey Processor

27 November 2012
Ohio State University

US - A southwestern Ohio turkey processing plant has found a way to utilise the 145,000 gallons of wastewater it produces each day, with a first-of-its-kind treatment system designed by an Ohio State University researcher.

Whitewater Processing Co. slaughters and processes 6,000 to 8,000 turkeys on a normal day, producing about 2.5 to 3 million pounds of turkey in an average month. The Kopp family has run the business since the 1930s, and with 110 employees, wanted to stay put.

But in the 1990s, environmental concerns about the 145,000 gallons of wastewater it produces each day nearly sunk the business.

And though the costs have been considerable - about $1 million to build the wastewater treatment system plus an estimated $1.8 million to operate and maintain it over the next 20 years - the Kopp family figures the business will save at least $10 million over the next-best alternative.

"It's working very well, we're very excited about it," said Ryan Kopp, project manager.

In the late 1990s, Whitewater began working with Karen Mancl, an environmental scientist and Ohio State University Extension water quality specialist, after the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency grew concerned about the company's open-lagoon wastewater treatment system, especially with the Whitewater River so close to the facility.

The wastewater is screened to remove as much of the suspended solids as possible before it is flowed through beds of sand and gravel. Microbes quickly populate the surface of the sand grains and gravel pieces, and they feast on the organic matter, breaking it down and removing it from the water. Treated water runs clear.

"It's a beautiful river, and we definitely wanted to make sure it's protected," said Mancl, who is also a professor in Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and a scientist with the college's research arm, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

The total cost for the construction of the pretreatment facility, hook-up and use of the Harrison treatment plant over 20 years was estimated at $12.5 million.

"And it likely would have been even more," Mr Kopp said. "They had given us some estimates for future increases in treatment costs when we first looked at that option, and so far the actual increases have been more than they projected."

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