The water delivery and waste treatment infrastructure in the United States is in most places in poor condition. The stimulus package provides loans for communities to upgrade wastewater treatment systems and drinking water infrastructure in the amount of $6,400 million. The government loans will require many local districts to raise fees to match or repay the loans. Slower growth has meant that utilities have less income from connection fees. The uncertainty of the bond market, high interest rates and the use of variable-rate bonds have made it difficult for utilities to cover their payments.

Water is an increasingly expensive commodity. Once or twice a year conversations with a local water supplier and waste treatment facility should ensure that companies are prepared for water quality issues that may impact food safety and the cost of waste treatment.

Questions to ask include:

• Will you soon be getting water from a desalinization plant?

• Will your fire department be using recycled gray water?

• What new restrictions has Homeland Security put on your water supplier that might impact your allocation of water in bad weather or other emergency?

Water is managed by the worker on the floor with the ability to turn it on and off. That person needs to understand the importance of water and have the appropriate training and management support to fix any problems. Failures are very expensive.

Inside the bakery or snack food plant, water leaks are probably one of the most critical concerns. One company recently had a multi-million dollar recall because a pipe was dripping on the production line. Microbes contaminated the dripping water. The problem had been obvious and the fix had been simple.

In addition to the process line operation, seasonal condensation needs to be considered. Kitchen and laboratory areas need to be checked regularly for leaks. Hands-free restrooms are important for sanitation and water conservation.

Do you have the opportunity to recycle and reuse process or rinse water for operations or landscaping? Membrane technologies are making in-house water treatment possible with a small footprint and a decreasing cost.

Possible contaminants of ingredient water include heavy metals such as copper, lead and zinc; arsenic; fluoride; nitrates and microbes. The levels approved for ingredient water may exceed the discharge limits. The Environmental Protection Agency changes the water quality limits regularly. Water quality may affect a company’s product safety and quality.

Outside the plant, storm water regulations require a clean roof and control of run-off. Landscaping with native plant rain gardens may avoid storm water issues from paved areas. Control of potential spills from deliveries is important.

Water is a critical resource and one that every customer and consumer values. Clean water is a social value and has economic value.

The E.P.A. again has extended the compliance deadline for the 2002 Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule to April 4, 2009. Frankly, if companies don’t have some common sense spill prevention structures in place by now they have been too far out of touch. The purpose of the rule is to keep oil out of the nation’s water supply.

And although companies are required to have a spill plan, the rule has been and will be constantly changing so companies should not wait for the government to tell them what to do. Companies need to design the physical plant so that it best manages ingredients and fuels to protect food safety, be cost-effective and keep fuel and ingredients out of the environment.

The rule covers liquids such as vegetable oils, butter, chocolate, and milk; so liquid sugar and high-fructose corn syrup tanks should be included in planning as well. The rule covers facilities with above ground oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons, or completely buried oil storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons.

For more information the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation (40CFR part 112) is located at

Information is also available by calling the Oil Information Center at (800) 424-9346 or (703) 412-9810 or

According to the American Water Works Association:

• There are approximately 160,000 public water systems in the United States. These systems produce 51 billion gallons per day of drinking water — 67% goes to residential customers and 33% to nonresidential customers;

• There are about 2.3 million miles of distribution system pipes and 600,000 miles of waste collection lines;

• There are more than 16,000 publicly-owned treatment works;

• 32 billion gallons of wastewater are treated every day.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Milling and Baking News, February 24, 2008, starting on Page 38. Click here to search that archive.