Brewing requires large quantities of water. In fact, we use approximately 40 million gallons of water per year.
The brewery draws water from an artesian well deep beneath our historic Faversham brewery, as it has done for hundreds of years, and until 2013 our waste water was sent down the drain to the Faversham Water Treatment Plant.
In 2012 we commenced construction of a Water Recovery Plant on the edge of the brewery’s site in Partridge Lane.
The plant is designed to clean water after it has been used in brewing. It can then be reused, saving on water consumption and waste. At full capacity this can reduce water usage by up to 40%, reducing our impact on the environment and use of natural resources. There is no sewage treated at the plant, only bi-products resulting from the brewing process.
How does it work?
When the water is pumped into the plant from the brewery it contains solid and dissolved organic matter collected in the cleaning process, such as bits of barley, hops and yeast. First we filter the water to remove large solid particles, and then we aerate it allowing the smaller particles to rise to the surface where they are skimmed off.
Once the majority of the solid matter has been removed, the water is pumped into an aerobic digester where micro-organisms consume the dissolved organic matter. The water from the digester is filtered and the microbes are returned to the digester to continue their work. This is a natural process that produces clean water and an odour.
Additional micro-organisms are produced during the process; they are subsequently dried and removed from site as a solid substance.
We have encountered some issues with odour since commissioning the plant in 2015.
As a consequence we commissioned assistance from independent consultants and implemented a number of changes to improve operations:
- The solid matter removed from the water can start to smell, much like a garden compost heap. We are now adding natural mineral salts to reduce the odour.
- Odour can build up whenever tanks and tankers used to store and remove solid matter from the site are left empty. As they fill up, the material pushes the air containing the odour into the atmosphere. We have started running the plant at low levels over the weekend to avoid odour build up in empty vessels. We have also employed a variety of filters and vacuum pumps so that we can treat air before it is released into the atmosphere.
- Dried micro-organisms are stored on site before removal. Although this mass is virtually odourless, we spray it with a deodorant just to make sure.
Further measures we have taken include:
• Installing a larger storage tank
• Improving filtration
• Installing a centrifuge to remove water from waste matter
We are now considering options to improve the visual appeal of both the plant and the surrounding buildings on North Lane.
Is the smell harmful?
No, it arises from natural organic and totally harmless substances.
Why does it smell sometimes and not at others?
Odours have been emitted for two main reasons: firstly, whenever matter is removed from the site. We have taken action (detailed above) to reduce this.
The second reason is when we experience equipment failure. Like any operation we can experience breakdowns. Earlier this year a pump broke; more recently we were struck by lightning, which burnt out several systems.
Are you treating sewage?
No, it’s water used in brewing, cleaning and maintenance.
Is it going to keep on smelling?
The organic matter itself will always smell. Our challenge is in how we manage to contain and/or mask the smell during processing and disposal. We are working to improve those processes. We are confident we can refine the management of the site so it won’t affect nearby residents. However, in the event of equipment failure, there may be occasional odour.
Are you doing enough to stop the odour?
Ever since the first instances of a smell coming from the plant we have been working on improving the system. It’s relatively new technology and hasn’t previously been used in a brewery of our size, so improving and adapting the system is an ongoing process. This matters a great deal to us and we have invested heavily not only in the initial plant but in various means of improving it, with the help of specialists.
If the water’s clean, why don’t you just drain it into the creek?
After going through the recovery plant excess clean water is drained into the creek. This discharge is closely monitored by the Environment Agency. This helps clear up the silt and can help to reduce the smell that sometimes comes from the creek itself.
What further plans do you have?
Our engineers and surveyors have held initial discussions with Swale Borough Council’s planning department and are now preparing a detailed planning application encompassing improvements to the streetscape in the vicinity of the Water Recovery Plant together with further measures to reduce odour.