By Laurie Wachter
California Soda Company, a 2020 WINnovation Award winner
California Soda Company has been manufacturing and distributing industrial cleaners and sanitizers for close to a century. Knowing a business well means you can see an opportunity for improvement that moves the industry forward. That’s the case for Ron Hinck, the third-generation owner who, as he modestly says, “just put three different components together and made it work.” That make-it-work moment is a mister technology for sanitizing stainless steel tanks that earned one of this year’s WINnovation Awards.
California Soda Company wanted to improve sanitization sustainability, and his patent-pending solution reduces water usage by 98% by using a fine mist spray of chlorine dioxide (CIO2) to the tanks’ interior surfaces.
“With the more frequent threat of drought and ever-present increase in environmental issues around winery wastewater discharges,” says owner Ron Hinck, “we believe this process is pertinent to the survival of winery production in California.”
At the core of the innovation is a small stainless steel device with five sprayers, one on each of four sides and a final one on the bottom. Ron spent much of the two years of development refining this small device.
“At first, I looked at a lot of different heads that could project a fine mist,” says Ron. “and nothing worked quite right. Finally, I found one that did and had the company make it for me in the grade of stainless steel needed to prevent rust.”
The device pairs with the second component — chemistry. A Selectrocide teabag delivers EPA-approved CIO2 when submerged in water. The device projects into the stainless steel tanks and sprays the chemistry in a fine mist that lingers in the tank long enough to ensure the contact time kills all bacteria.
The third component is air.
“To make this genie come out of the bottle, all you need is clean air or nitrogen,” says Ron. “Because you’re sanitizing, you can use air filters on the device or nitrogen, which is as clean as you’re going to get.”
One other essential ingredient was collaborator Marcus Riedl, Cellar Master at Simi Winery. He had been using a peracetic acid rinse at the winery and was concerned about how much water it used.
“Ron and I talked a lot about the science,” says Marcus, “and Ron invested the time and money in a solution.”
“Long-term relationships are at the core of our business,” says Ron, “and Marcus and I have a good one going.”
Throughout the process, Marcus ran tests and, at one point, became the test subject when an industrial scientist for Yorke Engineering came out to test for operator safety.
“He put pumps all over me to measure my level of exposure,” Marcus laughs. “I had to wear those things for 6 hours without sitting down, and they were heavy!”
Test results showed that the atmosphere around the tanks was safe to breathe when workers were mixing and sanitizing, with results below Cal/OSHA requirements.
“It’s much safer than a rinse,” says Marcus. “A rinse needs a higher chemical concentration, and since it exits the tank immediately after hitting the tank walls, you need to repeat it several times to sanitize the tank. With the mister, I use a much lower 25 parts per million (ppm) of CIO2 because the mist lingers inside the tank. It’s quite an awesome piece of technology.”
Bob Tracy of Bevtrac Mobile Quality Systems did efficacy studies on the effectiveness of the CIO2 mist in reducing the microbial load of yeast, bacteria and mold compared to using peracetic acid or CIO2 in a rinse process.
“I did studies at four different wineries, and overall found it to be more effective than other sanitizers we measured against, generally peracetic acids. Whether equally or more effective, it’s good news because peracetic acid has become the gold standard since most wineries shifted away from chlorine in the past 5-10 years. Peracetic acid is what most wineries chose.”
“In the wine industry, chlorine is a bad word,” Ron explains. “15 or 16 years ago, an outbreak caused by using chlorine to sanitize tanks and floors, unfortunately, wreaked havoc in cork and wood.”
“Wineries stopped using chlorine because one of the haloanisoles in it, trichloroanisol (TCA), causes cork taint,” explains Bob Tracy. “But chlorine and chlorine dioxide have entirely different chemistries. Since you don’t form free chlorine from chlorine dioxide, you can’t form TCA. There is simply no risk of cork taint when using chlorine dioxide. Some wineries, including larger ones, are now using chlorine dioxide as a sanitizer.”
The mister uses significantly less water, a critical factor to wineries seeking more sustainable practices. Each 8-minute misting application requires only 0.5 gallons of water with 25ppm of CIO2, compared to the 80-100 gallons of water with peracetic acid or CIO2 rinse in a 6000-gallon tank. The amount of water and time needed increases for larger tanks but remains a fraction of the water consumption required when using a rinse.
With two-thirds of the worst drought conditions in a century between 2007 and 2016, water scarcity has been top of mind for winegrowers and governments alike. In July, the California State Water Resources Control Board issued a new water code draft outlining fees and rules that are likely to impact over half of wineries. It will require reports on wastewater processing, particularly addressing dissolved solids from sanitation chemicals in winery-process water.
California Soda Company’s new mister addresses this problem, too. According to Bob Tracy, “The concentration of chemical byproducts after misting is so low that there is no solid material left over in the wastewater. It’s essentially diluting out everything.”
“Everything is proven now,” says Marcus. “If every winery did this, we would save so much water!”
To learn more about California Soda Company’s WINnovation Award-winning product, contact Ron Hinck at 707-242-3000