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Sewage Suds on Tap for Water Reuse

Monday, April 20, 2015

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PORTLAND, OR—Craft beer in Oregon may soon have a new ingredient: wastewater.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Commission voted unanimously Wednesday (April 15) to allow Clean Water Services in Hillsboro to use recycled sewer water for a group of home brewers to make beer with, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

But the sewage suds won't immediately be available for human consumption. Clean Water Services will still need additional state approval for an amended recycled water reuse plan before anyone can actually drink the beer.

Clean for Consumption

According to its website, Clean Water Services is a "water resources management utility committed to protecting water resources in the Tualatin River Watershed."

CC BY-SA 2.5 / SilkTork

"Turning treated wastewater into a valuable product, rather than discharging it as a waste, is an idea whose time has come," Teresa Huntsinger, Water Program Director for the Oregon Environmental Council, told the DEQ.

The company has an advanced treatment process that it says can turn sewage into drinking water. The water will go to Oregon Brew Crew, which would make beer to serve at events (but not the brewery).

Initially, about 5 to 10 barrels of craft beer will be produced and made available at tasting events. The beer won't be available for sale initially, either.

Oregon allows recycled wastewater to be used for irrigation, industrial processes and groundwater recharge, but this will be the first time the state has considered letting people drink it, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

"Turning treated wastewater into a valuable product, rather than discharging it as a waste, is an idea whose time has come," Teresa Huntsinger, Water Program Director for the Oregon Environmental Council, told the DEQ.

Other states are also warming up to the idea.

California's drought led Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill last year requiring state health and water officials to submit a feasibility report by September 2016 on developing uniform standards for recycling wastewater for direct potable reuse, reported.

Pilot Project

In Oregon, the utility will implement a pilot project to produce high purity water for potable re-use from advanced secondary treatment plant water available at its Forest Grove Facility.

The project monitors the results from several advanced treatment processes to "demonstrate the level of purification that can be achieved," Robert Baumgartner, assistant director of the regulatory affairs division of Clean Water Services, said in a letter to the DEQ.

The letter included a draft report on the "well established treatment technology" that will be used in the pilot including ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation to provide water that "far exceeds drinking water standards."

Clean Water Services
Clean Water Services

The pilot program will produce high purity water for potable re-use from advanced secondary treatment plant water available at Clean Water Services' Forest Grove Facility (pictured).

Baumgartner added the project "provides an opportunity to raise awareness and foster discussion about high purity water and the reusable nature of all water."

Clean Water Services is working with the Oregon Brewers Guild and the Oregon Brew Crew Homebrewers Association to make select craft beer for non-commercial, non-retail use.

Baumgartner said the utility is also partnering with professional societies "expressing interest in the proposal including the Water Environment Federation and the WateReuse Assocation."

Mixed Comments

The Oregon Health Authority approved the idea in September, citing the high water quality of the treated water, the additional microbial reduction in the brewing process, and a "low health risk overall."

The DEQ then held a public comment period from Jan. 16 to Feb. 20, with a public hearing on Feb. 12. Fifteen comments were submitted: nine that were generally supportive, four that requested denial based on either health concerns or harm to the craft brewer industry, and two that were impartial and wanted further clarification.

Once the revised recycled water reuse plan is submitted, the public will have another opportunity to comment.


Tagged categories: Environmental Controls; Health and safety; non-potable water; North America; potable water; Program/Project Management; Sewer systems; Wastewater Plants

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/20/2015, 8:52 AM)

Giving away free beer seems like a very effective way to get people to try drinking purified sewer water. Of course, many of them already drink purified sewer water without knowing it (those living downriver from a major city, like say.... the Trinity River, where Houston is downstream from DFW...)

Comment from Mark Anater, (4/20/2015, 11:48 AM)

This is an idea whose time has come. Drought in much of the country will only get worse in the coming years, so reusing water already in service makes perfect sense. The visceral reaction of the average person against "toilet to tap" has to be dealt with, and a program like this is just the ticket.

Comment from Chuck Beckman, (4/20/2015, 6:02 PM)

I refuse to drink p*** and pay for it. Period.

Comment from Andrew Smith, (4/20/2015, 8:11 PM)

Singapore, a small country with limited water rainwater collection and heavy reliance on imported water from neighbouring Malaysia, have been adding around 10% recycled sewer water to the public water supplies for some years now. It is one of the few countries in Asia where it is safe to drink water from the tap.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/21/2015, 8:30 AM)

Chuck - have you investigated your local water source? Even buying bottled water frequently won't avoid this problem - it's mostly tap water anyway, under a lower health standard than standard tap. Lots of cities are downstream from other cities and draw from the river where (treated) sewer water was sent.

Comment from Rodney White, (4/21/2015, 9:55 AM)

Chuck- did you know that the regulations regarding effluent discharge from a WWTP are much more stringent than for the product of your local municipal water supply? The major thing missing is the chlorine treatment (damages most downstream aquatic life) and the fluoride...

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