Is Your Craft Beverage Production Facility In Compliance With the Clean Water Act?

D.G. Yuengling and Son Inc. settled with the EPA relating to 141 alleged Clean Water Act (CWA) violations where it will pay $2.8 million in fines. The Pennsylvania brewery will pay $2.8 million penalty, plus approximately $7 million in promised wastewater system improvements. The company operates two brewery facilities and both failed to comply with industrial user permit limits on wastewater discharges that went to the local municipal wastewater collection and treatment system. More specifically, the charges state that the brewery wastewater exceeded the discharge limits for biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), phosphorous, zinc and pH. This could negatively impact the entire public municipal wastewater system. The wastewater streams must be pretreated by the brewery before being discharged into the local municipal system.

To avoid future violations, the brewery agreed to wastewater system updates including designing and implementing an environmental management system (EMS) focused on CWA compliance, improving and installing a comprehensive pretreatment system, hiring two certified wastewater treatment operators and implementing a process to identify, investigate and respond to future CWA violations.

The average water use ratio for a brewery is about 7:1, that is, seven gallons of water are consumed for each gallon of beer produced. (The other six gallons are primarily going down the drain.) While brewery wastewater is not generally toxic or hazardous, it can contain low levels of biocides and metals, and higher levels of biodegradable materials, that can be problematic for municipal wastewater treatment plants. Without pretreatment, brewery wastewater may exceed regulatory discharge limits for some parameters such as pH, metals and phosphorus. As a result, brewery wastewater can be more costly for the municipality to treat and can increase the quantity of sludge needing disposal.

What does this mean for your microbrewery?

  1. Evaluate what is going down the drain and where it goes.
  2. If the discharge is into the local municipal sewer system, then determine if you must obtain an industrial user wastewater permit.
  3. If you are put under formal permit or contract with the EPA or DEC, then evaluate whether your untreated wastewater can consistently comply with those requirements or if onsite pretreatment is required.

Making beer is fun but you must keep in mind you are in an industrial food production business and there are environmental regulations to comply with. Failure to do so can lead to very significant fines and penalties. Working with an environmental engineer or experienced craft beverage or environmental attorney can help you navigate the regulations and ensure your operations are in compliance.

Tracy Jong has been an attorney for more than 20 years,      representing restaurants, bars, and craft beverage manufacturers in a wide array of legal matters. She is also a licensed intellectual property and patent attorney.

Her book Everything You Need To Know About Obtaining and Maintaining a New York Retail Liquor License: The Definitive Guide to Navigating the State Liquor Authority will be available next month on as a softcover and Kindle e-book.

Her legal column is available in The Equipped Brewer, a monthly publication giving business advice, trends, and vendor reviews to help craft breweries, cideries, distilleries and wineries build brands and succeed financially.

She also maintains a website and blog with practical information on legal and business issues affecting the industry. Follow her, sign up for her free firm app or monthly newsletter. Tracy Jong Law Firm/ Twitter: @TJLawFirm/ LinkedIn: Tracy Jong.