The first workshop, hosted by the DairyWater project, on achieving sustainability for the Irish dairy processing industry, took place on the Wednesday, 9th March 2016, in CA107 – Lecture Hall 3 in the Cairns Building, NUI Galway.

DairyWater-WorkshopAttendees at the DairyWater Workshop

Environmental experts, from both the Irish dairy processing industry and Irish research institutes, presented on a number of current challenges that face the Irish dairy processing industry, particularly related to water and wastewater treatment efficiencies. Additionally, researchers within the DairyWater project will present their research activities to date and its potential impact for industry. The guest speakers for the event included:

  • Dr. Kees Roest (KWR Watercycle Research Institute, The Netherlands): Phosphorus removal and recovery from wastewater [PDF]
  • Dr. Mark Fenelon (Teagasc): Challenges of the Irish dairy processing industry
  • Dr. Mingjia Yan (UCD/DPTC): Life cycle assessment of the Irish dairy sector [PDF]
  • Mr. Rory Farrell (Lakeland Dairies): Industry water, wastewater treatment and environmental issues
  • Mr. Willie Murphy (Aurivo Co-Op): Energy usage and the biomass boiler at the Aurivo plant [PDF]

The researchers from the DairyWater project included:

  • Prof. Xinmin Zhan (NUI Galway): An overview of the DairyWater project [PDF]
  • Dr. William Finnegan (NUI Galway): Environmental impact of dairy product manufacture (Task 6) [PDF]
  • Dr. Liwen Xiao (Trinity College Dublin): Nanotechnologies for dairy wastewater treatment (Task 3) [PDF]
  • Ms. Emma Tarpey (NUI Galway): Treatment of dairy effluent using IASBR technology (Task 2) [PDF]
  • Ms. Beatriz Gil Pulido (University College Cork): Molecular ecology analysis for bioreactors (Task 5) [PDF]
  • Ms. Kelly Fitzhenry (NUI Galway): Water re-use and rainwater harvesting (Task 4) [PDF]

The aim of the workshop was to discuss the main environmental concerns of the Irish dairy processing industry and identify strategic research areas, concurrently offering an opportunity to showcase the work being performed within the DairyWater project. Dr Mark Fenelon from Teagasc gave an overview of the current status of the industry, while Rory Farrell from Lakelands Dairies discussed his experiences as the Environmental Manager of a dairy plant located in Killashandra, Co. Cavan. The main issues identified by the two speakers related to water footprint, energy and chemical inputs to wastewater treatment, the lack of water reuse within plants and sludge management options.

The environmental impacts associated with the industry as a result of dairy plant operations was also discussed. Willie Murphy from Auriol Co-Op introduced the recently installed biomass boiler, which is located at their Ballaghaderreen site, and the benefits, both environmentally and financially, that they have seen since the commencement of its operation. The use of life cycle assessment to quantify the environmental impacts of the industry was then discussed by Dr Mingjia Yan from UCD and Dr William Finnegan from NUI Galway who presented the initial assessment results performed within the DairyWater project. The life cycle assessment quantifies a number of environmental impacts, including climate change and eutrophication of water.

One of the greatest challenges of the industry when treating the large volumes of wastewater generated is the removal of phosphorus. Dr Kees Roest from the KWR Watercycle Research Institute in The Netherlands, presented his experiences in the removal and recovery of the nutrient. Emma Tarpey from NUI Galway presented a novel technology that is being explored in the DairyWater project, which uses biological phosphorus removal mechanisms. These mechanisms are significantly cheaper than the chemical technologies currently employed by the industry.

Kelly Fitzhenry from NUI Galway looked at the reuse of water within dairy processing plants. Additionally, the development of tertiary treatment technologies, including a novel pulsed UV system, which would help facilitate water reuse by ensuring it is free from any harmful micro-organisms, was presented.

If Ireland is to remain one of the largest exporters of dairy products in the world, strategic measures to reduce the industry’s environmental impacts need to be adopted now. This will be even more essential as the emission limits of plants, currently imposed by the EPA, are predicted to become increasingly more stringent over the coming years. Additionally, dairy companies will need to increase their influence on farm-based activities so as to reduce their environmental impacts, particularly with regard to greenhouse gas emissions.

A press release from the event featured in a number of publications: