Students from the CEE 366 undergraduate course, “Environmental Engineering Laboratory”, traveled to the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery in Dexter on February 15th, 2019 to view how the brewery treats its wastewater.
The CEE 366 course aims to equip students with laboratory skills that relate to real-world local, regional, national, and global engineering challenges. Throughout the course, students play the role of engineering consultants hired to address environmental challenges such as leaking underground storage tanks that contaminate soil and water, wastewater management needs of small businesses, reduced visibility from air particles at airports, and maintaining safe indoor air quality for public health. The course has been developed by environmental engineering faculty with different expertise, including Professors Terri Olson, Avery Demond, Herek Clack, and Lut Raskin.
The goal of the visit was to see first-hand how the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery produces various wastes and how the Eco Volt Mini system, the onsite wastewater treatment facility, pre-treats that waste before sending it to the municipal treatment facility. Students conducted several experiments on the actual wastewater produced by the brewery and the treated effluent coming from the Eco Volt Mini system. In the course’s case assignment, students were asked to discuss their analysis of the onsite wastewater treatment in relation to the city of Dexter’s municipal discharge standards and to make recommendations of potential future improvements to the current process.
Doug Knox, the Sustainability Director at Jolly Pumpkin, gave a tour of the Jolly Pumpkin and the Northern United Brewery, which included seeing everything from the start of the brewing process (ingredients, boiling tanks, fermenters, beer barrels) to the system that treats the brewery’s wastewater on-site. Knox manages the treatment system and is also the main collaborator with Professor Raskin’s research group where brewery wastewater is fed into novel bioreactors for production of valuable products such as biogas and platform chemicals.
Matt Vedrin, the graduate student instructor for the course who works on drinking water research for his PhD dissertation, said “It was really cool to see how Professor Raskin’s ongoing collaborations with the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery helped create this opportunity for the students.” He added, “Touring a local brewery as part of your engineering education…sounds like every student’s dream!”
Environmental undergraduate student Heidi Moeser enjoyed the trip. “My favorite part of the visit was getting to tour the two different breweries. It was really neat to see how the two different brewing processes operate and the various components associated with each side, and the different waste streams each brewery produces,” said Moeser. “Looking at the Eco Volt Mini, it really is mini, so it was interesting to see that something of that size can efficiently treat wastewater to the municipal discharge standards.”
Moeser also felt like this trip complemented what she is learning in the classroom. “The tour really helped expose us to onsite wastewater treatment processes, including the constraints involved and the waste materials processed. That exposure allowed for us to better interpret the importance of the data analysis we conducted on the treated wastewater effluent from the Eco Volt Mini. It definitely also helped us get a better sense of the alternative options to onsite wastewater treatment, which was very fascinating. It truly was a real world example of the work we’re doing in class and lab.”