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Creating a New Solution for Napa County’s Wine Wastewater Disposal

Napa Valley
Visit Napa Valley, California and you will see bushels of plump grapes hanging from trees bathing in the golden sunlight. What you probably won’t see is the amount of wastewater that is produced from turning these unassuming grapes into gleaming bottles of wine. In fact, Napa Valley wastewater disposal is so expensive and inefficient that the Napa Sanitation District has agreed to help create a new solution for Napa County’s wine wastewater disposal.
The Problem: Money and Traffic
Similar to wine, wastewater comes in many different styles. Some wineries produce wastewater that is too thin to be processed with fat and grease waste. And others make wastewater that is too thick to be sent down the drain without incurring high fees. This has lead to about 12,000 trucks taking road trips to Oakland to dispose of the wine wastewater.
Other wineries have issues disposing of their wastewater, because the wastewater either has to be pre-treated before sending it to nearby treatment plants (which is expensive), or the nearby treatment plants charge extremely high fees to treat the water. Wineries lose either way.
The North Bay of Napa Valley sends about 74 million gallons of wine wastewater 40 miles south to Oakland’s Easy Bay Municipal Utility District – a facility that turns untreated wastewater into energy for its residential customers.
However, trucking is not a long term option for wastewater disposal says Belia Ramos Bennett, vice mayor of the city of American Canyon, California. Traffic creates a difficult road to wastewater disposal, including time wastage and environmental impacts from the burning of fuel from the truck. Tim Healy, Napa Sanitation’s general manager, has stated that the district has budgeted an extra $100,000 this year to study the wine wastewater dilemma.
In addition to large wastewater expenses, Napa wineries are also recuperating from an earthquake in August 2014 which has caused an estimated $80.3 million in damages to buildings, equipment and infrastructure including wastewater ponds.
What’s Stopping Solutions?
The obvious solution to Napa County’s wastewater problem is to build a treatment plant in the area. However Napa Mayor Jill Techel states that costs are standing in the way. A new digester could cost about $15 million for a district that is already operating at a deficit.
What do you think Napa County should do about its wastewater dilemma? We would love to hear your thoughts. Tweet us @castagra!

TNphoto Tatsuya Nakagawa
Tatsuya Nakagawa is the VP of Marketing and co-founder of Castagra Products, a storage tank and wastewater coatings manufacturing company that is highly acclaimed for its sustainable coatings and cold weather coating applications. Castagra products are NSF-61 certified and are used by the world’s top water and wastewater contractors.