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East Bay Utility Welcomes Winery Wastewater

California wineries benefit from 'hold-and-haul' disposal program

by Jon Tourney
Crew Wine Co. in Yolo County stores winery wastewater in these 8,000-gallon tanks prior to it being trucked to EBMUD's Oakland wastewater treatment facility.
Oakland, Calif.—Call it “hold and haul” or “tank and truck,” the East Bay Municipal Utility District’s (EBMUD) trucked waste-disposal program now enables 50 Northern California wineries to manage their wastewater output reliably and flexibly without costly investments in onsite infrastructure and/or local permit and hookup fees. With capacity to accept more wastewater at its Oakland treatment facility, EBMUD seeks more participation and is promoting its program to wineries at industry trade shows in California, including this month’s Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento, Calif.

“Typically we’re getting the most interest for new business from new and expanding wineries,” said Steven Sherman, EBMUD’s business-development coordinator for resource recovery.

Wineries trucking waste to the Oakland facility are located in coastal counties from Mendocino in the north to San Luis Obispo in the south, in Central Valley counties from Sacramento to Fresno, and in the Sierra Foothills. Accepted winery waste includes: wine and juice products, grape skins, barrel and tank wash water, wine lees, process wastewater screenings, pond sludge, boiler and cooling tower blowdown, water softener concentrate, ion-exchange reject and acid/caustic rinse water.

Excess treatment capacity available
The EBMUD wastewater-treatment facility in Oakland was built and expanded during the 1970s and 1980s, when the district was home to a large number of food-processing facilities and canneries. Many of these food processors later closed or moved away, leaving the Oakland plant with excess capacity. In the early 2000s, EBMUD began promoting a trucked waste-disposal program to a wider geographic area as a way to utilize capacity and expand the utility’s waste-to-energy program. In addition to winery waste (currently only 5 % of the plant’s trucked waste volume), the facility accepts food scraps from restaurants and retailers, rendering and animal processing by-products, waste from other food and industrial processing operations, portable toilet and septic tank waste, fats, oils and grease. The facility is open 24 hours per day to receive loads year-round.

The wastewater plant recovers methane generated during the process of digesting organic waste material and converts it to renewable energy used to power the plant’s operation. In 2011, EBMUD installed a new, energy-efficient, low-emission gas turbine, and in 2012 it began producing more renewable energy onsite than is needed to run the facility. The wastewater plant runs on 4.5 megawatts (MW) of electric load, but the gas-turbine can produce up to 11 MW, enabling the utility to sell excess power into the electric grid to offset costs for ratepayers.

Sherman explained, “Many wastewater plants and sanitation districts in California are not sized to handle the amounts or the strength of wastewater generated by wineries, and this is true in some areas where wine production is expanding.” New wineries may not have access to piping to discharge waste to a local sanitation district, and local permit and hookup fees can be very high in some locations. The other alternative for wineries is to build infrastructure and treat wastewater onsite, which is costly and occupies valuable space that could be used for wine production or vineyards. “EBMUD has the ability and the capacity to process both high-strength and low-strength wastewater, and we have excess capacity to generate renewable energy, which makes for a sustainable model for resource recovery,” Sherman said.

“Since we’ve already made the investments in capacity, our disposal prices make it attractive for wineries to haul material from as far as several hundred miles away, and we estimate that for most wineries, the total cost of disposal and hauling amounts to less than 15 cents per gallon,” Sherman summarized.

Disposal fees at the EBMUD facility range from 3 to 15 cents per gallon based on waste characteristics, volume and contract length. The winery also incurs the costs for hauling waste from the winery to the wastewater plant in Oakland. EBMUD can provide information on permitting requirements and approved waste haulers. Permitting can be handled two ways: The winery can obtain a permit and have the waste hauled under this permit, or the can winery hire an approved hauler to obtain a permit and haul the waste. EBMUD can provide analytical laboratory services, coordination with haulers and facility waste-stream audits. Read program information at

Wineries satisfied with trucked-waste program
Crew Wine Co. in Yolo County began operation in 2008 and continues to use EBMUD’s disposal service as the most cost-effective option to manage wastewater and comply with regulatory requirements. Wastewater from the crush pad and processing cellars drains into a sump and is pumped into one of three 8,000-gallon above-ground tanks located onsite. The winery started out producing 30,000 cases per year and has gradually expanded production to more than 90,000 cases, adding holding tanks and increasing hauler pickup frequency as needed.

Winemaker Lacey Steffey, who coordinates wastewater hauling, said, “EBMUD is efficient at what they do. We pay a fee per gallon for disposal, and it’s an easy and reliable way to safely dispose of our wastewater.” Crew contracts with a Vacaville, Calif.-based septic waste hauler who reliably provides next-day (or sooner) pickup service when called. “It’s definitely a good option for smaller wineries, whether they’re starting out or established, to comply with regulatory requirements without making a major investment in onsite treatment,” Steffey observed.

Spelletich Family Wine Co. in Napa Valley has operated with a “hold-and-haul” system for wastewater since 2008, says owner/winemaker Barb Spelletich. At the winery’s previous location within the jurisdiction of Napa County, wastewater was collected in an underground tank through gravity flow before being trucked away. In 2013, the winery moved to the Napa Valley Commons industrial park within the City of Napa, and now it uses a sump pump to transfer wastewater into a 12,000-gallon above-ground tank for onsite storage.

Spelletich produces about 6,000 cases of wine per year under its own labels, but it also provides custom crush for other small producers. In 2013, the facility processed 176 tons of grapes. The hauler used by Spelletich has a maximum truck capacity of 6,000 gallons. When the winery’s tank accumulates 7,000 gallons, an alarm is triggered to inform personnel to call the hauler and schedule a pickup. Spelletich said waste pickup can happen as often as twice per week during the busiest part of crush, but during the slower winter season it may be only once per month. Spelletich said, “It’s a useful and necessary service for our operation, and it’s a good way to protect our environment.”

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