British Columbia has long been a beer lover’s paradise, with a number of local breweries renowned for their special brews. In the last decade, microbreweries have flourished across Vancouver and craft beer has become a large portion of the local market share.

The industry’s growth has led to concerns about increased stress on Vancouver’s sewer system. Wastewater from all breweries (consisting of spent grains, fruit, yeast and cleaning and sterilization water) can obstruct the flow of and interfere with the operation and performance of sewer and sewage facilities. Although smaller brewing operations do not discharge the same volume as larger brewing operations, the effluent strength leaving their facilities is much the same. While large-scale brewing operations in Vancouver require a Waste Discharge Permit, until recently, the wastewater leaving smaller brewing operations was (for the most part) unregulated when compared to their larger-scale competition.

In response to wastewater concerns, Metro Vancouver passed a bylaw on Nov. 27, 2015 restricting the release of by-products discharged into sewers from fermentation operations, including micro-breweries, and small wineries and distilleries. The Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District Fermentation Operations Bylaw No. 294, 2015 targets fermentation operations that (i) use yeast to produce alcoholic beverages and (ii) discharge up to 300,000 L of wastewater into the region’s sewer within 30 day segments. This new Bylaw broadly applies to brew pubs, micro-breweries, u-brews, cottage breweries, vint-on-premises, wineries and distilleries.

The Bylaw outlines seven requirements that fermentation operators must comply with by set dates, as described below:

Requirement 1 – Remove Coarse Solids

  • Effective Nov. 27, 2015, all operations are prohibited from discharging coarse spent grains or fruit pulp into sewers.

  • Effective Jan. 1, 2017, all operations must limit the concentration of total suspended solids in their wastewater to a maximum of 1,200 mg/l.

Requirement 2 – Install a Sampling Point

  • Effective July 1, 2016, every fermentation operator must install a sampling point downstream of all process waste to access wastewater for sampling purposes.

Requirement 3 – Record Keeping

  • Effective Nov. 27, 2015, all operations must keep records of hectolitres of packaged product produced per month. These records must be kept available for inspection at the facility for a minimum of two years.

  • Effective July 1, 2016, all operations must begin daily pH testing and record the date, time and result of the test. These records must be kept available for inspection at the facility for a minimum of two years.

Requirement 4 – Monitor and Treat Wastewater pH

  • In addition to keeping daily pH records, by Oct. 31, 2016, all fermentation operators must submit a pH characterization report showing their daily pH measurements recorded at the sampling point from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2016.  This will be used to determine whether the wastewater complies with the Sewer Use Bylaw pH range of 5.5 to 10.5.

  • If a pH characterization report demonstrates wastewater having a pH outside the permitted range, the operator will be required to submit a compliance plan by Jan. 31, 2017 describing the actions it will undertake to achieve compliance.

  • Effective July 1, 2017, wastewater pH levels for all operations must be in compliance with regulatory limits.

Requirement 5 and 6 – Treatment and Regulatory Fees

  • Beginning in 2016, all operations must pay an annual amount for treatment fees based on their annual production from the previous year (e.g. ranging from $250-$3,500 for beer, cider and wine). A flat annual fee of $100 will be charged for distilleries.

  • Beginning in 2016, all operations must pay an annual administration fee of $200 to cover costs of regulating fermentation operations under the Bylaw.

Requirement 7 – Manage Discharge of Off-spec Product

  • Effective Nov. 27, 2015, all operations must manage off-spec product (i.e., bad batches of product that do not meet quality standards), as it has high biochemical oxygen demand that can negatively impact wastewater treatment plants.

  • Operations discharging between 100-2,000 litres of off-spec product per day must notify Metro Vancouver or the City of Vancouver by phone or email in advance and keep a record of such notification, along with a record of the date, time and volume of the discharge.

  • Operations discharging over 2,000 litres of off-spec product per day must notify Metro Vancouver or the City of Vancouver and obtain authorization prior to such discharge. Operations must keep a record of the date, time and volume of the discharge.

Non-compliance with the Bylaw could result in a fine of up to $10,000; if the offence continues, a fine of up to $10,000 could be imposed for each day of non-compliance.

To ensure compliance, fermentation operations affected by this new Bylaw should consider employing sector specific best management practices, organic waste management programs and associated environmental compliance policies at their facilities.