Constellation plans to put millions of earthworms to work in 2015. Don’t worry, they won’t be making the wine, they’ll be cleaning the wastewater from winery operations.
BioFiltro is currently running a trial of their BIDA® System at Constellation Brands’ winery in Madera, California, and if all goes as expected, a new BioFiltro installation with a capacity of 1,000,000 gallons per day will be operational in the near future.
“We’ve installed a small trial system at the winery to run for 6 months,” says Sanjar Taromi, Chief Marketing Officer of BioFiltro, “it’s a chance for Constellation to ensure that the system can achieve their goal of at least 80% reduction in BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand). So far the results match our typical rate of 90% to 95% reduction in BOD.”
“The BioFiltro team is very innovative and understands the variability of winery operations, which has made our partnership thus far very productive,” says Wendy Garcia, Manager of Environmental Engineering Services for Constellation.
A BioFiltro system is already in operation at the Fresno State dairy unit, but Constellation could be the first BioFiltro installation at a California winery. However, the earthworm powered wastewater treatment system has been reducing BOD and TSS (Toal Suspended Solids) at wineries in Chile for some time.
“Constellation had staff working in Chile who visited some of BioFiltro’s commercial installations at wineries,” explains Garcia, “the feedback was positive, so we went forward with this pilot test.”
The system works by sprinkling wastewater into the BioFiltro where the earthworms reside in a layer of wood shavings. The worms eat the organic matter trapped by the shavings and produce castings with bacteria that break down dissolved contaminants in the water. The whole process takes about 4 hours for the waste water to be converted into water available for irrigation of vineyards.
“The BioFiltro typically has a smaller footprint than aeration ponds and consumes less energy,” says Taromi, “and in addition to allowing the winery to reuse the wastewater, the worms also produce castings that can be used as compost.”
A concern for Constellation is the amount of caustic chemicals that most biological treatment systems require to neutralize the acidic winery wastewater before treatment. These add big operational costs and the salts negatively impact the environment.
“Salinity build-up in the environment is a severe problem in the San Joaquin Valley and Constellation is always striving to find ways to reduce salinity impacts and improve operational sustainability,” says Garcia, “So far, the results are very good. It appears that the BIDA BOD reduction is very efficient, even at slightly low pH. We look forward to finishing testing and summarizing results around December.
BioFiltro will be showcasing their system to the wineries of Napa and Sonoma at the North Coast Wine Industry Expo in Santa Rosa on December 4th, and a successful trial through the crush season at Constellation will be an important stepping stone into the wine country market. The drought and the continuous drive for more sustainable practices in the wine industry will likely prove to be great motivators for BioFiltro adoption as well.
Wastewater before and after BioFiltro treatment.
By Kim Johannsen