Don't Send Money Down the Drain

A versatile system meets Federal standards while minimizing VOCs in wastewater

By Terrence T. Virnig, P.E., C.H.M.M., Synthetech Inc., and John A. Meidl

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Existing equipment, such as tankage for wastewater storage and equalization, a sludge dryer for the evaporator concentrate, and a plate filter press for minimizing sludge for disposal, was incorporated into the final wastewater treatment system. Synthetech also has a reactor and distillation column, either of which can be used as backup for the evaporator and dryer.

Performance exceeds design
The overall performance of the system has met and continually exceeds Synthetech's planned objectives. The manufacturer has consistently met effluent limit goals and local standards, realized reduced surcharges, complied with Federal Pharmaceutical Pretreatment Standards and avoided SDCs (Table 4).

"Meeting discharge limits is now taken for granted," says Joel Melka, vice president of operations at Synthetech. "This allows us to concentrate on our core competency," which is supplying peptide fragments to pharmaceutical companies.

Almost 10 months after startup, the evaporator had to be taken offline for awhile. During this time, the TDS and organic loading placed on the PACT system exceeded the design parameters of the system.

Synthetech looked to the bench-scale testing results for direction about how to gradually increase the TDS concentration and organic load to the system. The pharmaceutical chemical manufacturer carefully adjusted the amount of process waste and closely monitored the high-level TDS wastewater sent to the PACT system. It also kept carbon dosing steady and the COD loading to less than 750 lb/day. Although the TDS concentration of the feed went from less than 1% to more than 3%, the PACT system continued to operate successfully, and maintained exceptional effluent quality, even without the evaporator (Table 5).

"The PACT system has proven much more versatile and user-friendly than we had anticipated," Melka says. "Our process water characteristics change daily, but the PACT system has been able to adapt without a hiccup."





A valuable lesson
While working with Synthetech, USFilter learned a lot about its PACT system. For instance, the COD and TSS levels in the effluent increase when there is a significant increase in the level of TDS in the wastewater. There is minimal impact on performance over a temperature range of 70 Degrees F to 90 Degrees F. The PACT system treats greater amounts of BOD, COD and VOCs than its original design. Synthetech's measured COD loading can be used to optimize system performance.

The PACT system is a reliable and effective way to treat wastewater streams with high VOC and COD levels typical in a pharmaceutical chemical synthesis manufacturing plant. The system is flexible enough to handle streams that contain contaminants that vary in strength and type. Treating wastewater streams on site allows Synthetech to keep money in its "pockets" instead of watching it go down the drain.

Terrence T. (Terry) Virnig, P.E., C.H.M.M. (Certified Hazardous Materials Manager), is manager of HS&E at Synthetech Inc., Albany, Ore. John A. Meidl is a product manager at USFilter Zimpro Systems, Rothschild, Wis.

Acknowledgement: This paper was originally presented on Oct. 15, 2003 at the 2003 Water Environment Federation's Technical Exposition and Conference (WEFTEC) in Los Angeles.

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