SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A team from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the Rochester Institute of Technology recently developed a new technology to help clean the wastewater from breweries before it is released into the environment. 

With the brewery industry spreading like wildfire in New York State, it is becoming more critical than ever to ensure the safety of our environment from these breweries.

According to the Brewers Association, on average breweries in the United States use about seven barrels of water for every barrel of beer produced. In addition to the massive amounts of water breweries use, about 70 percent of that water is wastewater disposed into the sewer system. 

To reduce the amount of wastewater from breweries, and to help treat the wastewater before it is released into the environment, ESF Associate Professor Lee Newman and a team of engineers from R.I.T developed a green wall technology. 

It is a plexiglass tube that is filled with a support media that supplies support to the roots of the plants and to the bacteria, so they have something to grow on, and then the water passes through these columns, and the plants take up the water, they take up the nitrogen compounds. The bacteria convert the nitrogen, they break down the biological contaminants in the water, and what comes out the other end of these columns is cleaner water.

Lee Newman, ESF Associate Professor

Smaller breweries may not have to think about their wastewater as much, but this is a great concern for larger breweries who use massive amounts of water and need a water treatment system. 

Newman said, “The idea is this would be a natural way to remove the contaminants from the water and allow it to be used directly or discharged directly to the environment without polluting the environment.”

The green wall isn’t only good for the environment, but it can also help breweries save money.

“If they have a larger operation, they’re going to have to pay per unit volume to send their water to a treatment system. So, this could save them money in the long run of having a low-cost, in-house treatment system that is going to reduce the amount of water that they have to send to the treatment, maybe eliminate water that has to go to a treatment system,” Newman said. “Or if they are discharging it to the environment, they’re going to know that there is not a lot of nitrogen in the water, and thus they’re going to prevent pollution from happening in the environment.”

Newman says one of the major problems with brewery wastewater is it is high in nitrogen, and that can create algal blooms that are harmful to the environment. 

The green wall technology will become even more important, as the brewery industry continues to expand in Central New York.

Newman said, “As the breweries increase in size or more breweries are developed in a given area, possibly there’s a problem with too many breweries in a given area, and they’re going to overload the treatment system, this can become very important. It’s going to be beneficial for the brewers because it’s going to reduce their cost, and it’s going to be beneficial for the environment because we are not putting polluted water into our environment.”

Newman and her team already have a patent for their green wall technology, and now they are looking to partner with breweries and put it to good use.

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