Citing the importance of industry-municipality partnership during one of the worst droughts in Georgia’s history, Governor Sonny Perdue toured the General Mills facility in Covington to see firsthand the company’s innovative approach to water conservation enabled by the plant’s state-of-the-art, on-site wastewater treatment facility.
“General Mills is playing a leading role in changing the way we do business in Georgia,” Governor Perdue said. “Through our Conserve Georgia initiative, we are asking our citizens and our businesses to make conservation a daily part of their routine. The savings here at General Mills not only represent less water usage, but also cost savings to the company. This company is the perfect example of how conserving can not only help our environment, but also its bottom line.”
The treatment facility, brought online by General Mills Covington in August 2006, recovers and treats the plant’s food processing wastewater so thoroughly that the water can be fully reused. In fact, the restored water, once treated, is clean enough and pure enough to be used for any purpose. General Mills’ Covington facility is a food plant, and the company chooses to reuse the purified water only for non-food contact applications, such as dust removal and cooling. However, the water quality is high enough that it could be used for any purpose, if the plant chose to do so.
With the new treatment facility, as much as half of the plant’s water can now be treated, restored and reused, trimming the plant’s overall water consumption by an average of 46 percent – or about 5.3 million gallons per month. In total, the new facility conserves enough water to supply about 1,000 homes.
“This water treatment and recycling project is an excellent example of General Mills’ commitment to Nourishing Lives,” said Mark Bible, plant manager of General Mills’ Covington facility. "It reflects the importance we place on being a responsible corporate citizen, and the emphasis we place on supporting our community and sustaining the environment.”
In addition to the environmental benefit of conserving millions of gallons of water each month, General Mills estimates that the treatment facility saves the company about $840,000 per year in annual water utility costs and surcharges.
The water conservation efforts at General Mills are also winning recognition. For example, last March, the Georgia Association of Water Professionals gave General Mills the “2007 Water Conservation and Reuse Award,” and the “2007 Industrial Pollution Control Award for an Indirect Wastewater Discharger.”
While treatment and reuse systems like this are not uncommon in Europe where water costs are high, such systems are comparatively rare in the United States where water costs are typically low. In Georgia, however, water costs are relatively high, making this type of technology a good fit for the state.
“This project is a huge step toward sustainable manufacturing,” said Jeff Hanratty, manager of safety and environmental for General Mills. “We hope to take some of the concepts we’ve learned with this installation at Covington and apply them to our other facilities around the world.”
About General Mills
One of the world's leading food companies, General Mills operates in more than 100 countries and markets more than 100 consumer brands, including Cheerios, Häagen-Dazs, Nature Valley, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Progresso, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen and more. Headquartered in Minneapolis, General Mills had fiscal 2008 global net sales of US$14.9 billion, including the company’s $1.2 billion proportionate share of joint-venture net sales.