Every year, the green and leafy town of Vimmerby in southern Sweden hosts thousands of Astrid Lindgren fans paying tribute to the author’s popular Pippi Longstocking and other children’s characters. Lindgren’s birthplace is also one of the country’s most enterprising regions, where diverse industries dot the landscape.
One of the largest industries is Arla Foods, with its high-tech Vimmerby plant, processing an average of 1.5 million kilograms of milk daily. More than 13,500 farmers in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK own the Arla milk cooperative.
In 2012, Arla planned to expand its Vimmerby production to meet a growing demand, but the resulting wastewater presented a problem. The municipality’s wastewater treatment facility was already running at full capacity. Expanding the facilities to meet Arla’s needs would take an estimated 3-4 years.
That is when the people at Arla Vimmerby contacted Grundfos.
“We sent them our requirements regarding the purity of the discharged water and they said ‘no problem,’” says Pär Bragsjö, Arla Foods’ Facility Manager. He adds that Grundfos was able to meet all of the plant’s demands, including a very tight deadline. A contract for the BioBooster decentralised wastewater system was signed in November 2012 and the plant was up and running by May 2013.
The two companies had previously cooperated on water treatment projects in Denmark. Søren Nøhr Bak, Segment Director Industry for Grundfos BioBooster, says Grundfos was pleased that Arla was willing to take the leap and implement Grundfos’ new, previously untested technology.
“It was encouraging to work with Arla, which not only has high environmental standards but is also willing to support innovative new solutions,” he says.
Grundfos built and tested the modular BioBooster system in Denmark and then installed it on the Vimmerby site, where Arla had prepared the concrete foundation in accordance with Grundfos’ blueprints. Once the modules were delivered, it took just a few days to set up.
Better than expected
“It is performing even better than we had hoped for,” says Pär Bragsjö. “The cleanliness of the discharged water has been even better than expected and we can run much more water through than what was initially promised – 400 cubic metres per day instead of 320 cubic metres per day –and still maintain the water purity level. Dairy water is relatively difficult to clean, but we have achieved fantastic purification results. I can strongly recommend the Grundfos BioBooster – the plant technology is very advanced, but still easy to operate.”
VIDEO: See how Grundfos BioBooster took on the decentralised wastewater treatment for Arla’s dairy factory in Vimmerby, Sweden.
Georg Stefansson, Operator for Dalkia, which takes care of the Arla plant’s daily operational and maintenance needs, agrees. His job includes testing the discharged water to ensure that it meets strict environmental regulations.
“We take tests every day to check on the quality of the water and it is so clean after going through the BioBooster membranes that it can be discharged directly to the wetlands,” he says.
Søren Nøhr Bak points out that not only does the decentralised wastewater treatment plant remove the pollutants from water, but it also is “creating opportunities to have water that you can start reusing.” The treated water can be used for landscaping or as technical water for cooling towers and other applications.
Such environmental advantages bode well with Arla’s own Closer to Nature approach, with an overall target to reduce the company’s CO2 emissions by 34 percent from 2005 to 2020 and reduce the amount of water used by 20 percent. “Closer to Nature means that we should always be considering the environment and our energy consumption,” says Pär Bragsjö. “Grundfos BioBooster is a very good example of this with its low energy consumption and only natural methods, and no chemicals, for cleaning the water.” The sludge remains provide a good source of fertilizer for the local farmers.
In addition to these advantages, Pär Bragsjö mentions another important benefit. “One advantage of having our own decentralised treatment plant is the cost. It is almost half the price of treating water in the municipality’s treatment plant, so that justifies this installation.”
As for the municipality’s own wastewater treatment plant, Arla’s decentralised solution came as a welcome relief.
“Arla’s BioBooster is a good solution that I can see being used for other industries, not just dairies,” says manager Göran Nilsson. “I think that all industries should take care of their own wastewater.”
Arla’s treated water can be discharged into wetlands
Arla’s Vimmerby plant produces milk powder in a modern facility that is EN16001-certified for energy efficiency. The Grundfos BioBooster treatment plant was built on the site to handle 400 cubic meters of wastewater daily, or almost 50 percent of the milk plant’s total wastewater flow. The treated water matches or exceeds the local wastewater requirements when it comes to chemical oxygen demand, nitrogen and phosphorous, and it can be discharged into the local stream and surrounding wetlands. The capacity of the Arla’s BioBooster unit equals a wastewater treatment plant for 18,000 people.
BioBooster cleans water on site
Grundfos has been working on the technology behind BioBooster for close to 15 years, according to Søren Nøhr Bak, Segment Director, Industry, Grundfos. This decentralised wastewater system reduces water consumption and helps increase environmental sustainability. Because it is a scalable system, it can be adapted to changing wastewater treatment needs. The system is highly suited to customers in the food and beverage industries, hospitals and municipal wastewater treatment plants, among others.
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Story by Cari Simmons
Photos by Satu Knape