Bush Brothers counts on water reuse to reduce local impact of bean production


Bush Brothers counts on water reuse to reduce local impact of bean production
Jesse Klein
Wed, 05/20/2020 - 03:20

"There was nothing except a pipe going out the back of the plant."

This was how Rodney Aulick, president of integrated solutions and services at Evoqua Water Technologies, described the wastewater system at Bush Brothers and Company’s Tennessee plant, when it first engaged with the food company.

Bush Brothers is the largest manufacturer of prepared beans in the United States, and its work with water treatment titan Evoqua resulted in massive improvements, Aulick said. The plant is now able to reuse much of its water, lowering the strain on the community system and environment as a whole. The company is also better equipped to tightly control its water usage, according to Evoqua.  

Bush Brothers, a family-owned business, has been operating in the small community of Chestnut Hill, Tennessee, for over 110 years. The company keeps the community in mind when pushing for new production goals and system upgrades. In 2016, Bush Brothers began working with Evoqua to upgrade its wastewater system to reduce its reliance on public water sources and provide its facility with more capacity, flexibility and reliability. The project was completed in the fall of 2019.

For companies such as Bush Brothers, investing in technology to improve the sustainability of its business processes is more than just a good PR move — it's also a measure necessary to ensure plants can keep operating even through increasing periods of climate extremes. Water, specifically, stopped being an afterthought for Bush Brothers after the 2007 drought in Chestnut Hill. This was the wake-up call the executives needed to replace that pipe with something better. 

"They wanted to use that precious water that was going out the back end of their plant, back into the front end," Aulick said. 

To do this, Evoqua and Bush Brothers built a wastewater treatment plant near one of its bean canneries at the Chestnut Hill property. According to Will Sarni, CEO of the Water Foundry, a hyperlocal water recycling plant such as this is still a rare project for U.S. businesses. Bush Brothers' other facility in August, Wisconsin, has a biogas reuse program in place (as does Chestnut Hill) but the Tennessee facility represents the only water reuse system for the company.

They wanted to use that precious water that was going out the back end of their plant, back into the front end.

"I think in the U.S, it’s really just a few percentage points in terms of the volume of water," Sarni said. "This is the exception, not the rule."

The Chestnut Hill facility uses a bioreactor to clean the water, which creates biogas for supplemental energy for the factory. Dissolved flotation and reverse osmosis are used to remove particulate matter from the water. 

While the water is...

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