Fox River Fiber, recognized as an industry leader in turning post-consumer wastepaper into high-quality pulp for environmentally conscious companies, is investing $7 million in a wastewater pre-treatment facility designed to reduce the company's carbon footprint and keep costs stable for its customers.
The privately owned company is getting out front of accelerated cost increases from its municipal service provider, the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District (GBMSD), by taking matters into its own hands.
"Effluent expenses started out as a relatively minor, lower-level cost in our operation," explains Fox River Fiber CEO Greg Archambault. "But as things changed with the municipalities, it became one of our major costs. Building our own wastewater pre-treatment facility became more and more viable, almost to the point of being necessary."
Fox River Fiber is dedicating an acre of property to construct a large treatment tower and three storage tanks. The system is designed to handle approximately 1 million gallons of wastewater per day, up to a peak of 1.2 million gallons per day. Company engineers, working with equipment supplier Voith, broke ground on the project in June and expect to bring the system on line in December.
One of the facility's tanks will pre-condition wastewater before it goes into the treatment tower; another will remove the biological solids and store them; and the third will further condition the water to remove any additional impurities before it is released to the Green Bay Metropolitan Sewerage District. The company plans to sell the recovered biological solids to other anaerobic treatment facilities for use as seed in treatment towers.
A structure will house the facility's pumps, control systems, an office and lab. The system itself will have automated controls, with cameras and other equipment in place to monitor trends and flows.
"We chose an anaerobic method as being the most environmentally friendly," Archambault says. "It requires less energy to operate and actually produces energy at the back end."
Bacteria introduced into the system will remove organics from the waste stream, leaving cleaner water and methane as byproducts. Fox River Fiber will burn off the methane in a controlled flare during Phase 1 of the project, with the possibility of recovering that energy in later stages.
"The flare will be enclosed, so it will not be visible," Archambault says. "It meets all of the air quality regulations and is meant to be a short-term solution until we get the pre-treatment facility stabilized. Then we'll re-evaluate and determine the appropriate technology to recover that energy."
Company leaders recommended using an anaerobic method of wastewater treatment that will reduce biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) by 70 to 90 percent. BOD is the amount of oxygen required by aerobic organisms to decompose the organic matter found in wastewater. BOD levels directly impact wastewater treatment charges by the municipality, making up 80 percent of that cost.
"GBMSD is totally revamping their solids handling equipment due to environmental regulations and aging equipment and will be adjusting their prices for wastewater treatment," Archambault says, "This system will help us control expenses so we can keep costs stable for our customers."
Fox River Fiber sends its effluent directly to GBMSD's De Pere treatment facility through a $2 million dedicated main. The company finances the entire cost of the main, which was required because of the higher temperatures of its wastewater stream.
Fox River Fiber's anaerobic pre-treatment facility requires less energy than other conventional treatment facilities.
"Using anaerobic technology, we will reduce the amount of energy used to treat our effluent, and it is a more sustainable method for the long term," states Archambault. "We'll be sending them relatively clean, warm water, and we'll be looking at ways of recycling more of that water ourselves in the future."
The wastewater facility is Fox River Fiber's second major capital expenditure in the past three years. The company previously invested $3 million to increase its market deinked pulp capacity 10 percent to 146,000 tons per year.
Fox River Fiber also uses 93 percent of the byproducts generated by its proprietary deinking process for beneficial purposes such as animal bedding, and lawn and garden care products and are always working to improve that percentage.
"The wastewater pre-treatment facility will keep us competitive financially," Archambault says, "but more than that, it's just the right thing to do environmentally."