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Burley Oak gets proactive in reducing water consumption

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(Oct. 26, 2017) Following up on a meeting last month with Burley Oak Brewing Company representatives, Berlin Town officials toured the brewery last Friday to see new water-saving programs implemented by brewery owner Bryan Brushmiller.

Last month’s meeting took place after town wastewater personnel noticed a spike in activity at the lift station near the brewer on Old Ocean City Road.

The cause of the increase in flow was never determined and was not implicitly tied to Burley Oak, but it did lead Brushmiller to rethink his operation’s control of water consumption.

Brushmiller, who has a biology degree from Salisbury University and previously worked at the City of Salisbury’s Wastewater Division, revealed the results of his new approach last Friday to Public Works Director Jane Kreiter, Wastewater Superintendent Jamey Latchum and Councilman Thom Gulyas.

Brushmiller’s water-use reduction plan is designed to save 24,000 gallons of water per month, he told the group. If the plan works, it would cut about three EDUs (equivalent dwelling units, a measure of consumption) from his operation and save him about $45,000.

Officials told Brushmiller last month that he needed to buy three additional EDUs to make up for his company’s increased consumption, which town officials believed were related to an expansion of the brewery and its canning operation.

The new equipment and procedures already have reduced water consumption by 300 gallons per brew and could double that, according to an outline of the plan. High-pressure, low-flow water flow hoses are being used and new “low water cleaning practices” have been adopted.

The brewery also instituted spill prevention and pretreatment plans, with the latter designed to remove organic material from the waste stream. Additionally, some material produced during the brewing process will be sold or given to farmers for use as fertilizer. Burley Oak already has a spent grains program that is used as cattle feed.

Brushmiller said the fertilizer was essentially “nonpoultry nitrogen.”

“We’ve learned that nitrogen is a bit of a commodity around here, especially if it’s not from poultry,” he said. “That’s what we’re talking to different farmers now about and we’re excited.”

Brushmiller also bought 18 large tote tanks for liquid storage and transportation and has 12 more ordered to hold hops and yeast not used in the final product.

“This, basically, was reducing water … out of the waste system,” Brushmiller said. “[That contributes to] less water usage, but also less stuff going down the sewer.”

He the improvements resulted from “a month of research and tinkering” and that they would be refined over time.

Town officials said improved communication could also help, especially in cases when unusual incidents occur.

“If something happens and it’s beyond your control, if we know about it, we can divert [the sewer lines to a separate tank] when we think it’s coming,” Latchum said. “We’re here to help – we’re not here to hurt.”

Kreiter and Gulyas said they were impressed by what they saw.

“I think he’s doing a lot of homework and a lot of heavy lifting to try and become a good neighbor and help the town,” Gulyas said.

Kreiter said she was pleased Brushmiller is “being so proactive and has made a commitment to reduce his water usage.”

“That’s going to save his bills and it’s going to be great for the town … Also, his pretreatment [system] is going to make a difference, I think,” she said. “I don’t know that he has been contributing much [to the problem], but every little bit is going to make a difference.”