Wastewater from a dairy processor is being reused and recycled both within the plant and for irrigation. Flash pyrolysis GC–MS was used to examine nitrogen and phenol containing compounds (M.W. = 35 to 450 g/mol) in the particulate fraction of the milk condensate, combined clean wastewater and aerobic bioreactor effluent. For comparison, the particulates were also prepared for standard GC–MS analyses using conventional solvent extraction methods. Compounds detected by pyrolysis GC–MS were found mostly in the bioreactor with the amino acid arginine (220 mg/kg) and the amino acid derivative 1-methyl-5-oxo-L-proline methyl ester (130 mg/kg) found at the highest concentrations. In comparison, sterols detected in the effluent were found at higher concentrations when using solvent extraction indicating some degradation with pyrolysis GC–MS. However, with few exceptions, particulates were generally found not to act as passive collectors capable of concentrating less water soluble chemicals.
Potable water is an essential and major input in processing our food supplies, and the continued growth in food manufacturing is placing increased pressure on this limited resource. Recycling and reuse of factory wastewater can lessen potable water use but requires a detailed understanding of wastewater properties. This study uses solid-phase extraction techniques with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis to investigate trace-level semivolatile organic species in various waste and reference waters associated with the Burra Foods milk-processing plant located in Southeastern Australia. Our focus was on contaminants containing phenolic and heterocyclic nitrogen functional groups, which, because of their toxicity and persistence, may limit options for water recycling and reuse. Effluent from the wastewater treatment plant of the factory showed both the highest soluble carbon burden (47 mg/kg) and concentrations of target compounds. The target species found in these effluents included methyl phenol (13 mg/kg), hydroxy indole (9.8 mg/kg), synthetic tolyltriazoles (5.1 mg/kg) and alkyl phenol ethoxylates (0.2 mg/kg). Given the environmental stability of the tolyltriazoles, they may act as chemical markers where these effluents are used for purposes such as irrigation. Milk evaporator condensate waters, in contrast to the effluent, contained very few target species, with only low levels of pyrrolidine and piperidine derivatives such as ethylglutarimide (450 mug/L) detected. Although there were fewer target microcontaminants overall in the potable and creek reference waters, these samples had characteristic profiles. The potable water analysis revealed hydroxy cineole (2.1 microg/L) and the creek analysis revealed dichlorohydroxyacetophenone (0.3 microg/L), which were not detected in other waters. The compounds found in the wastewaters are likely to have been derived from milk or synthetic chemicals used in factory operations. The presence of nitrogen compounds in all the different milk-processing waters suggest their likely source was milk, probably milk phosphoproteins subjected to thermal, chemical, or microbial degradation. Our benign results for the condensates suggest it may be possible to substitute condensate for potable water with minimal pretreatment, both within the plant and in other applications, such as irrigation of recreation turf.