Revolutionizing Wastewater Management: Smithfield Foods’ $45 Million Investment in Sioux Falls Facility

Smithfield Foods recently unveiled its cutting-edge wastewater treatment system at the pork processing facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, signaling a significant leap forward in environmental sustainability. The $45 million project, completed in July, replaces a substantial portion of the existing wastewater treatment infrastructure, introducing advanced processes to reduce Smithfield’s overall nitrogen discharge into the nearby Big Sioux River.

Stewart Leeth, Chief Sustainability Officer for Smithfield, highlighted the company’s commitment to proactive sustainability in a news release, stating, “This new state-of-the-art wastewater project reinforces Smithfield’s proactive approach to implementing sustainable systems that improve environmental quality and benefit the community.”

Water Technology had the opportunity to interview Jason Lindquist, Smithfield’s Director of Environmental Affairs at the Sioux Falls facility, shedding light on the motivations, innovations, and environmental impact of the new wastewater treatment system.

Addressing Regulatory Requirements

The impetus behind the construction of the new system was a revised wastewater discharge permit issued on July 1, 2020. The permit mandated a reduction in nitrates in the final effluent to less than 50 mg/l. To meet this requirement, the facility incorporated denitrification processes, including new aeration/anoxic basins, ultrafiltration for final effluent clarification, and UV disinfection.

Lindquist explained, “The new Biologic Nutrient Removal system is designed to have both an aerobic and an anoxic zone. This ensures that we get a 70-plus% reduction of nitrates, aligning with the new permit limits.”

Technological Advancements

The new wastewater treatment system boasts a higher level of sophistication compared to its predecessor, designed with future scalability in mind. Lindquist stated, “If the need arises, we can treat about 40% more flow than we are currently treating, giving the production facility room for growth.”

Key technologies employed include ultrafiltration to eliminate total suspended solids from the water sent to the river, achieving turbidity levels below the drinking water standard. Additionally, the use of ultraviolet disinfection replaces the need for chlorine-based disinfectants, reducing chemical usage and ensuring compliance with discharge limitations.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

The project aligns seamlessly with Smithfield’s sustainability goals, surpassing compliance requirements and achieving exceptional results. Lindquist emphasized, “With the startup of the new system, our ammonia discharge is routinely running at 5% of our permit limit and 60% less than our old system discharge.”

The system consistently operates at reduced levels for Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Total Suspended Solids (TSS), showcasing a 74% reduction in BOD and an 85% reduction in TSS compared to the previous system.

In conclusion, Smithfield Foods’ investment in the Sioux Falls wastewater treatment system not only meets regulatory demands but goes above and beyond, embodying the company’s dedication to environmental stewardship and sustainable practices. The success of this project positions Smithfield as a leader in responsible wastewater management within the food processing industry.