The Nuts and Bolts of Building a Creamery
The Nuts and Bolts of Building a Creamery…
or the pea traps and drains, as the case may be. That is the phase of construction that is underway now at Pennyroyal. There are three systems of drains and piping that are being installed before foundations and the floor slabs can be poured. The first is the domestic waste system, which handles water from the bathroom and takes it to our septic system. The second is the largest, and will capture all the process water which will be pumped to a water treatment system. The third system is a whey diversion line, which will allow us to collect whey to use as animal feed.
The domestic waste drains are being done in standard black Schedule 40 PVC piping. The septic system which is currently handling the domestic waste from the dairy is an above ground mound septic system. Soil conditions on the site were not conducive to the use of a traditional below ground system. The mounded dirt covering it can be seen at the front of the property. Since goats and sheep have a relatively low environmental impact, we are still able to use this area for pasture.
The piping for the process waste water (equipment cleaning and floor washing) is a combination of blue and black Polypropylene pipe. This is an industrial grade piping which is designed to withstand higher temperatures (up to 180 degrees), strong acids, and solvents. Additionally, rather than the traditional PVC cement, the polypropylene pipes are fused at fittings and joints by heating electrodes in the pipe which melt and bond the pieces together around their circumference. While more expensive than traditional PVC, this system should easily hold up over prolonged exposure to the hot water and chemical cleaners that will be used in the creamery. We are using pre-cast trench drains, which will span the longest dimension of each room and reduce the amount of sloping required to efficiently drain water (floor slopes are dictated by CDFA regulations, to eliminate the risk of standing water and pathogen growth). Keeping the slope of the floors to a minimum will make it easier to maneuver and position draining tables, curd vats, and other wheeled equipment in the rooms. The trench drains are narrow in diameter, which will keep flowing water moving rapidly out of the creamery. Each sink station (two large sinks for washing equipment and hand sinks adjacent to each entryway, another CDFA requirement) will have an air gapped drain to a porcelain floor sink. A floor sink is a recessed, grated receiver (typically larger than a drain to handle a larger volume of water). The air gap means the drain pipe from the sink stops just shy of the floor sink. This allows sinks to be moveable, to provide greater ease of cleaning around them, and eliminates the risk of dirty water backing up into the sink and contaminating food contact equipment contained within. We are currently working with Elutriate Systems (www.elutriatesystems.com) to develop a waste water treatment system that utilizes pH buffering, bacteria, and oxygen to turn process water into nutrient rich water that can be used for irrigation. This design will allow us to recycle all of our process water and reuse it in the adjacent vineyards, for landscaping, or to irrigate our pastures. The plans are being submitted to our Regional Water Control Board for review.
The final component to the drainage system is a pair of drains for whey, done in white Schedule 40 PVC. One drain is located in the room where raw milk cheeses will be made and the other in the primary cheese making room below the draining table. These will be two floor drains with curbs rising six inches above the slope of the floor (so no wash-down water accidentally enters the system). There will be a manual diversion drain at the draining table so that as cheese curds are being ladled the whey drains to the whey system, and when the tables are being washed down with detergents the water will drain to the process water system. The whey will be pumped out to a receiving tank and from there used as feed for our farm pigs (our Berkshire breeding sow Penny and her companion feeder pigs).
These three systems also have cleanouts and pea traps and vents to allow maintenance and avoid any back-up of odors. The county building inspector came out last week and signed off on the drains, as did our CDFA inspector. Our construction foreman told me the county inspector said he’d never seen so much drain pipe in such as small square footage. That’s what it takes to incorporate sanitary design and maximum waste recovery. Alas, while clean-up and sanitation is perhaps the least romantic/artistic aspect of cheese making, it is what we spend the majority of our time doing as cheese makers!