Wastewater from Associated Processes

Most of the water consumed in a dairy processing plant is used in associated processes such as the cleaning and washing of floors, bottles, crates, and vehicles, and the cleaning-in-place (CIP) of factory equipment and tanks as well as the inside of tankers. Most CIP systems consist of three steps: a prerinse step to remove any loose raw material or product remains, a hot caustic wash to clean equipment surfaces, and a cold final rinse to remove any remaining traces of caustic.


The volume, concentration, and composition of the effluents arising in a dairy plant are dependent on the type of product being processed, the production program, operating methods, design of the processing plant, the degree of water management being applied, and subsequently the amount of water being conserved. Dairy wastewater may be divided into three major categories:

1. Processing waters, which include water used in the cooling and heating processes. These effluents are normally free of pollutants and can with minimum treatment be reused or just discharged into the storm water system generally used for rain runoff water.

2. Cleaning wastewaters emanate mainly from the cleaning of equipment that has been in contact with milk or milk products, spillage of milk and milk products, whey, pressings and brines, CIP cleaning options, and waters resulting from equipment malfunctions and even operational errors. This wastewater stream may contain anything from milk, cheese, whey, cream, separator and clarifier dairy waters [10], to dilute yogurt, starter culture, and dilute fruit and stabilizing compounds [9].

3. Sanitary wastewater, which is normally piped directly to a sewage works.

Dairy cleaning waters may also contain a variety of sterilizing agents and various acid and alkaline detergents. Thus, the pH of the wastewaters can vary significantly depending on the cleaning strategy employed. The most commonly used ClP chemicals are caustic soda, nitric acid, phosphoric acid, and sodium hypochloride [10]; these all have a significant impact on wastewater pH. Other concerns related to CIP and sanitizing strategies include the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) contributions (normally <10% of total BOD concentration in plant wastewater), phosphorus contribution resulting from the use of phosphoric acid and other phosphorus-containing detergents, high water volume usage for cleaning and sanitizing (as high as 30% of total water discharge), as well as general concerns regarding the impact of detergent biodegradability and toxicity on the specific waste treatment facility and the environment in general [11].

Dairy industry wastewaters are generally produced in an intermittent way; thus the flow and characteristics of effluents could differ between factories depending on the kind of products produced and the methods of operation [12]. This also influences the choice of the wastewater treatment option, as specific biological systems have difficulties dealing with wastewater of varying organic loads.

Published information on the chemical composition of dairy wastewater is scarce [10]. Some of the more recent information available is summarized in Tables 2 and 3. Milk has a BOD content 250 times greater than that of sewage [23]. It can therefore be expected that dairy wastewaters will have relatively high organic loads, with the main contributors being lactose, fats, and proteins (mainly casein), as well as high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus that are largely associated with milk proteins [12,17]. The COD and BOD for whey have, for instance, been established to be between 35,000-68,000 mg/L and

30,000-60,000 mg/L, respectively, with lactose being responsible for 90% of the COD and BOD contribution [24].

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