The Runaway Booze


This is another installment in our series of blog posts about illegal dumping cases. Need a backgrounder on our illegal dumping program? We’ve got a blog post about that!

We’re well past the era of bootleggers and rumrunners but there is still a situation where booze on the move is reportable to us! A complaint came in about routine, illegal discharges from a small brewery. Our team went out to investigate.

First, a little Brewing 101: During the brewing process, grains are boiled in water to create wort, a liquid that will ultimately become beer. The process is much like how you make a cup of tea, steeping tea leaves in hot water. The grains that are left over are called spent grains, which are used as livestock feed. They are pumped, as an oatmeal-like slurry, into a truck and moved to a farm. 

Our initial inspection (see images below) revealed probable issues with how this spent grain is loaded onto trucks. We saw spent grains all over the ground. We observed this process in real time and saw spent grain being splashed as it was loaded onto the semi-trailer, which is an illegal discharge. Additionally, our team observed wort (that’s the liquid made in the brewing process) leaking from the spent grains in the semi-trailer.

Wort is bad news for the environment because it’s high in sugar and nutrients: two things that are like Gatorade for algae blooms. This liquid was running onto streets as the truck traveled and discharged into Lake Mendota with every rain.

We required the brewery to implement short-term solution (see images above) within two weeks. They created a trough to capture wort escaping the truck. They also adjusted how they handle spent grains to remove most of the liquid that was leaching from the trailer. These safeguards, which our team observed in operation, virtually eliminated their illegal discharges. We also required them to devise a long-term solution and notify us when it was in place. The long-term solution will require significant infrastructure changes, so that plan isn’t finalized yet.

Reporting Concerns or Possible Violations

You can report any possible violations in Dane County to us.

Anyone can report a concern or possible violation. We have the authority to address threats to surface water quality in Madison and Dane County. We’ll ask for some basic details about what happened, like a description of what you saw and when.

Reporting possible violations is easy, either by online form or by phone.

To report a concern in Dane County, fill out an online report or call (608) 266-4821.

In an investigative mood?

Check out our other blogs in this series:

This content is free for use with credit to Public Health Madison & Dane County .

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