Potential Problems in Land Application with Seafood Processing Wastewater

Two potential problems may be encountered with land application of seafood-processing wastewaters: the presence of disease-producing bacteria and unfavorable sodium absorption ratios of the soil. A key to minimizing the risk of spreading disease-producing bacteria can be accomplished by using low-pressure wastewater distribution systems to reduce the aerosol drift of the water spray. With respect to unfavorable sodium absorption ratios associated with the soil type, the seafood processor should be aware that clay-containing soils will cause the most serious sodium absorption problem. Sandy soils do not appear to be affected by unfavorable sodium absorption ratios and seem to be the best suited for accepting the high sodium chloride content found in most meat packing plant wastewaters.

As seafood-processing plant wastewaters are applied to land, certain types of grasses have been found to be compatible with these wastewaters. These are Bermuda NK-32, Kentucky-31 Tall Fescue, Jose Wheatgrass, and Blue Panicum [2]. In addition, it was reported that the southwestern coast of the United States, with its arid climate, mild winters, and vast available land areas, presents ideal conditions for land application treatment systems.

In some cases, the use of land application systems by today's seafood processors is feasible. However, in many cases, land disposal of seafood-processing wastes must be ruled out as a treatment alternative. Coastal topographic and soil characteristics, along with high costs of coastal property are the two major factors limiting the use of land application systems for treating seafood-processing wastes.


Seafood processing involves the capture and preparation of fish, shellfish, marine plants and animals, as well as byproducts such as fish meal and fish oil. The processes used in the seafood industry generally include harvesting, storing, receiving, eviscerating, precooking, picking or cleaning, preserving, and packaging [2]. Figure 21 shows a general process flow diagram for seafood processing. It is a summary of the major processes common to most seafood processing operations; however, the actual process will vary depending on the product and the species being processed. There are several sources that produce wastewater, including:

• fish storage and transport;

• fish freezing and thawing;

• preparation of brines;

• equipment sprays;

• offal transport;

• steam generation;

• equipment and floor cleaning.

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Figure 21 General process flow diagram for seafood processing operations.

Figure 21 General process flow diagram for seafood processing operations.

Organic material in the wastewater is produced in the majority of these processes. However most of it originates from the butchering process, which generally produces organic material such as blood and gut materials. The volume and quality of wastewater in each area is highly dependent on the products or species being processed and the production processes used.

Most seafood processors have a high baseline water use for cleaning plant and equipment. Therefore, water use per unit product decreases rapidly as production volume increases. Reducing wastewater volumes tends to have a significant impact on reducing organic loads as these strategies are typically associated with reduced product contact and better segregation of high-strength streams.

Water consumption in seafood-processing operations has traditionally been high to achieve effective sanitation. Industry literature indicates that water use varies widely throughout the sector, from 5 to 30 L/kg of product. Several factors affect water use, including the type of product processed, the scale of the operation, the process used, and the level of water minimization in place [1]. General cleaning contributes significantly to total water demand so smaller scale sites tend to have significantly higher water use per unit of production. Thawing operations can also account for up to 50% of the wastewater generated. A figure for water use of around 5-10 L/kg is typical of large operations with dedicated, automated, or semi-automated equipment that have implemented water minimization practises.


Economic considerations are always the most important parameters that influence the final decision as to which process should be chosen for wastewater treatment. In order to estimate cost, data from the wastewater characterization should be available together with the design parameters for alternative processes and the associated costs. Costs related to these alternative processes and information on the quality of effluent should also be obtained prior to cost estimation in compliance with local regulations.

During the design phase of a wastewater treatment plant, different process alternatives and operating strategies could be evaluated by several methods. This cost evaluation can be achieved by calculating a cost index using commercially available software packages [36,37]. Nevertheless, actual cost indices are often restrictive, since only investment or specific operating costs are considered. Moreover, time-varying wastewater characteristics are not directly taken into account but rather through the application of large safety factors. Finally, the implementation of adequate control strategies such as a real-time control is rarely investigated despite the potential benefits [38,39]. In order to avoid these problems, a concept of MoSS-CC (Model-based Simulation System for Cost Calculation) was introduced by Gillot et al. [40], which is a modeling and simulation tool aimed at integrating the calculation of investment and fixed and variable operating costs of a wastewater treatment plant. This tool helps produce a holistic economic evaluation of a wastewater treatment plant over its life cycles.

14.8.1 Preliminary Costs of a Wastewater Treatment Plant

Several methods may be used to assess the preliminary costs of a wastewater treatment plant to facilitate a choice between different alternatives in the early phase of a process design. One method is cost functions [41-45]. Examples of different investment and operating cost functions are presented in Tables 3, 4, and 5. These cost functions were developed for the MoSS-CC modeling tool.

Another method was developed by EPA to estimate the construction costs for the most common unitary processes of wastewater treatment, as presented in Table 6. This was developed for municipal sewage treatment and may not be entirely applicable for small wastewater treatment plants, but it is useful for preliminary estimation and comparison among alternatives [4].

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