Water Safety in Food Packaging

A major food packaging facility had water test results that failed SWDA standards during routine sampling of the water. The results required the halting of production for three days. They called HydroCorp, and a team from our Wisconsin office, led by General Manager Gary McLaren, went to investigate.

Food processing – which covers everything from live cattle to onion rings – is an especially safety-critical enterprise, and many such firms employ process water in the cleaning, preparation, processing or packaging of groceries. The EPA defines process water as “any water that, during manufacturing or processing, comes into direct contact with, or results from the production or use of, any raw material, intermediate product, finished product, byproduct, or waste product.”

HydroCorp’s Wisconsin crew met with the health and safety staff of the food processor, and mapped out an exhaustive cross connection control survey strategy. This led to the team tracing all water lines – process and potable – from input source to output. In this instance, an internal modification to the process water lines – completed earlier and not carefully diagramed or documented – resulted in several water softener systems actually being plumbed directly to draining pipes. A fire sprinkler line was also found to be directly connected to the potable piping, in addition to multiple missing backflow preventers at interconnections to the potable supply.

With this discovery, HydroCorp then completed a comprehensive overview CAD diagram of the facility’s water system, and created a fully documented report and management program. It outlined existing cross connection control hardware, required system fixes, and a prioritized cost and timing schedule. With this information in hand, the processing facility was equipped with a clear, step-by-step path to a safe, fully compliant potable water system.

“Companies involved in the processing of food, pharmaceuticals, health supplements – basically anything people ingest – are acutely sensitive to this kind of safety breach,” says HydroCorp’s Gary McLaren. “The infrastructure of these facilities is staggeringly complex, and the risks are very real. Because if backflow can occur at a drinking fountain, could it also occur somewhere along the actual production line, potentially contaminating their product?” He continues, “Many people think of an industrial facility as a fixed, permanent structure. The truth is, in most cases they’re in a continual state of change – modifying lines, tweaking processes, expanding capabilities. That’s how companies stay in business. And, in that struggle to remain competitive and profitable, it’s only natural that a detail or two might get missed.”

McLaren concludes, “That’s why they call HydroCorp. We don’t miss the details. It’s more than keeping water safe. We address an inherent problem within all drinking water supply plumbing. We provide water system intelligence.”

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