In pursuit of permit compliance, Commonwealth Dairy receives a higher effluent allocation | Business

BRATTLEBORO — Commonwealth Dairy is taking steps to better comply with wastewater permits.

On Tuesday, the Select Board authorized the company to go from 100,000 to 185,000 gallons per day. Public Works Director Dan Tyler recounted a time when the dairy experienced several instances of exceeding local restrictions.

“Since then, they’ve really stepped up their work, increased their training,” he said. “They were acquired by another company that really seems to have taken a proactive approach to wastewater. They’re just filling in the gaps that were there, and they really had a long-term plan over the last year of improved effluent quality, without increased treatment. There are a few minor overshoots, but we are confident that the increased treatment will solve many of these issues.”

Last year, the state of Vermont fined Commonwealth Dairy $25,000 for violations of its pretreatment wastewater discharge permit. Department of Environmental Protection staff visited the yogurt plant in 2017 and 2018 and noticed a number of violations, including improper operation and maintenance, as well as reporting and training deficiencies, according to information from DEC, a division of the Natural Resources Agency. resources. Additional violations occurred in 2019 and 2020, according to a notice from the state.

In addition to paying the fine, Commonwealth also agreed to hire a wastewater engineer and consultant to evaluate the facility and provide a compliance plan to DEC. The facility’s permit limits the volume and quality of wastewater discharged into the Brattleboro collection system to protect the wastewater treatment facility and ensure that discharges into the Connecticut River meet environmental standards.

Discharge permits are designed to ensure that municipal wastewater treatment facilities can safely process and treat wastewater, prevent disruptions to municipal operations and prevent toxic pollutants from flowing into lakes, rivers and streams, according to DEC information.

Tyler said exceeding the local system has never caused the city to fall out of compliance with its federal permit.

“There are definitely some adverse effects on our side of things when they go overboard,” he said.

Brattleboro’s Department of Public Works supported the Commonwealth’s request for a higher allocation.

Interim City Manager Patrick Moreland said industrial discharge is different from residential discharge.

“Industrial waste has a high biological oxygen demand,” he said. “That means if we were to dump industrial waste from a commercial facility like the Commonwealth directly into the Connecticut River where our sewage system ends, it would deplete a significant amount of oxygen and kill plant/animal species in the river, and obviously that is something we want to avoid.”

Brattleboro has a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency that strictly regulates its discharge into the river, so it’s important for the city to monitor what’s being discharged into its system, Moreland said. The city is working on updating its ordinance to allow industrial plants to be fined for exceeding permitted biological oxygen consumption limits.

Commonwealth Dairy plans to keep its daily BOD limit at 800 pounds as the company will upgrade its on-site treatment facility to be able to treat the waste before it enters the city’s system, Tyler said.

Last month, the Brattleboro Development Review Board granted a site plan and local Act 250 approval to build a moving bed biofilm reactor and suspended air flotation system for wastewater pretreatment at the Commonwealth facility at 66 Paul Road . The state will also have to sign off as part of its review of Act 250 and wetlands and wastewater permits.

Sam Garland, director of facilities and project management at Commonwealth Dairy, said the multi-million dollar project will allow the company to expand its production.

“The addition of biological treatment is really something that the state of Vermont and the city have been pushing for to ease the burden, if you will, on the Brattleboro treatment plant,” he said. “It’s a pretty monumental addition. … Our request for additional volume is so we can grow our business and kind of amortize that investment into a bigger business, continue to make more dairy products using Vermont milk.”

Garland said the company is proud to support agriculture, and the expanded treatment will make it easier for the city to process waste while adding more jobs at the plant.

Commonwealth Dairy was founded in 2009 by partners Tom Moffitt and Benjamin Johnson, along with German dairy giant Ehrmann AG. Using milk from Vermont cows, Commonwealth packages yogurt for third-party sales and also designs its own line through Green Mountain Creamery, including a line of Greek yogurt and Yo Yummy pouches for kids.

In 2019, Commonwealth Dairy was purchased by Lactalis, the world’s largest dairy company located in France, which also bought Stonyfield Yogurt in 2017.

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