EPA grant aims to reduce pollution from R.I. alcoholic beverage-makers

THE EPA on Wednesday announced a $200,000 grant for R.I. DEM to create a pollution prevention program for breweries, wineries and distilleries. / PBN FILE PHOTO/ KATE WHITNEY LUCEY

PROVIDENCE – The state’s thriving beer, wine and distilling industry is an economic boon, but one with serious environmental implications for water use and wastewater discharge.

New grant funding announced on Wednesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeks to mitigate those hazards. The $200,000 grant awarded to the R.I. Department of Environmental Management will help pay for a new pollution prevention program that offers education, training and technical assistance to breweries, wineries and distillers, according to a press release.

The grant comes as part of $9.3 million awarded to 42 organizations nationwide aimed at pollution prevention across key industries and tied to the 30th anniversary of the Pollution Prevention Act.

The R.I. DEM is one of five New England recipients of EPA grant money, and will match the EPA’s contribution with $200,000 of its own funding toward the program, according to Dennis Deziel, the EPA’s Region 1 Administrator, which covers New England.

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Making wine, beer or spirits uses a significant amount of water and creates byproducts that pose particular harm to wastewater due to the weight of undissolved particles, wide pH swings, high temperatures, and accidental spills of pollutants in its discharge, according to the DEM. 

The increase in the industry’s presence in the state in recent years means “the time is ripe” for more pollution prevention education and tools, Deziel said in an interview with PBN.

Under the terms of the grant, the DEM has two years to create and implement its program. Details of the timeline have not been established, but the agency hopes to involve all 64 alcoholic beverage makers in the state in some capacity, according to Lee Fiske, a pollution prevention coordinator with EPA New England.

Data on the amount of water use or wastewater discharge that has resulted from the state’s alcoholic beverage makers was not immediately available.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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