Question: I’ve heard that there are new rules being drafted for wineries to deal with their effluent. Why is winery wastewater a problem?
Answer: As the wine industry grows in size across the country, wastewater discharge is becoming an area of increasing concern. On average, wineries produce 6 gallons of wastewater for every gallon of wine. Winery wastewater comes primarily from grape-crush, barrel-cleaning and bottling operations. It is usually free of pesticides and chemicals, but it can contain very high levels of sugar, which consume the dissolved oxygen in streams, rivers, lakes, and other surface water as it breaks down. As the oxygen is depleted in water sources, aquatic and amphibious life suffocates. Using wastewater to irrigate fields is also a problem, since the breakdown of the sugars depletes the oxygen in the soil, and kills beneficial microbes. Once the available oxygen is gone, the sugars begin to degrade anaerobically and form a slime layer that is impermeable to water. This results in standing water in the vineyards, since moisture is unable to seep into the ground (or reach the roots of the vines).
Ideally, wineries should be able to reclaim wastewater, treat it, and re-use it for irrigation or other purposes. One common method for treating wastewater is an aerated pond. Aerated ponds provide plenty of dissolved oxygen, and allow microbes to naturally break down the sugars in the water, resulting in clean water within 60-90 days. Unfortunately, this method is land and energy intensive, loud, and can produce objectionable odors. New methods for processing and cleaning wastewater include bioreactors, hydrate systems, and trickle towers coupled with artificial wetlands. These new approaches use less acreage, reduce odors, and can even provide precious habitats for wildlife—all while increasing the industry’s sustainability.
Regardless of the methods used to treat wastewater, reliable containment is essential. BTL-30 and BTL-40 liners are excellent for containing wastewater, whether water is held in-ground as a pond or in an above-ground container with a liner, awaiting treatment. Our liners are strong, lightweight, and can be custom made in a size or configuration. For more information about BTL’s products, please contact us at 1-800-280-0712.