Environmental Stewardship Part of Creamery’s Mission
May 13, 2020 (Westby, WI)
Making award-winning cottage cheese takes a lot of water. On average, Westby Cooperative Creamery uses over 100,000 gallons of water per day. All that used water has to go somewhere. That’s where the Creamery’s very own wastewater treatment system comes into play near the outskirts of the city of Westby.
Wastewater planning might not seem as exciting as creating new artisan cheeses, but caring for the environment is part of the Creamery’s mission and safely disposing wastewater is an important part of that equation.
Here is how it works: Wastewater drains from the plant into a giant manhole located in front of the building. From this manhole, gravity pulls the wastewater down an eight-inch pipe for about a mile until it reaches the wastewater ponds at the edge of town.
Once the water reaches the ponds, it has to go through two different manholes to filter out sand and grease particles. From there, the water flows into the first pond.
Pond 1 is roughly 2.62 square acres and 10 feet deep. It can hold seven million gallons of water at a time. Pond 1 is responsible for the initial round of cleaning. It contains bacteria that likes to eat the organic waste in the water. The bacteria require oxygen to metabolize the particles, which is why you will notice several aerators poking out of the water. They are there to provide dissolved oxygen to the bacteria. They also prevent the ponds from going septic.
A common measurement for the amount of waste remaining in the water is called Biological Oxygen Demand, or BOD. The water entering Pond 1 has the highest BOD, with an average of 700 milligrams per liter, but by the time it makes it through all three of the ponds it is less than 20 milligrams per liter.
Pond 2 is fairly similar to Pond 1. They are the same size and hold the same amount of water, but the water has lower levels of BOD so there are fewer aerators.
Then, finally, the water makes its way to Pond 3. Pond 3 is about half the size of the other two and it holds about 628,000 gallons of water. Its main purpose is to allow any solids in the water to settle out, which is why there are no aerators in this pond.
It typically takes four months and 20 days before the water can be on its way out of the treatment system. From there, the clean water merges with the city of Westby’s clean water and travels down to the Bad Axe River System.
No one knows the ins and outs of the ponds, literally, like Jim Frydenlund. Frydenlund is the Creamery’s wastewater operator and maintenance technician. He has been working with the ponds since 2006 and has been able to see the ponds grow over the years as production at Westby Creamery has grown.
As a wastewater operator, Frydenlund is responsible for monitoring the water that flows in and out of the ponds to make sure everything is running as it should. He ensures the water meets DNR standards and regulations before it leaves the ponds. Twice a week he travels to the DNR office in Baraboo, Wis. to drop off samples. The samples ensure the ponds are properly cleaning the water for safe return to the environment.
Frydenlund said he enjoys being able to get outside and spend quality time with nature while he works. As the weather gets warmer, geese hangout and nest by the ponds making great work companions. The ponds are important to Frydenlund because they help keep the surrounding wildlife and community healthy and safe from pollution.
The wastewater treatment system and Frydenlund play an integral role in Westby Creamery’s operations. Without them, the Creamery wouldn’t be able to keep producing its delicious cheeses, dips, and other dairy foods sustainably.