Plant expansion requires facility upgrades


By: Kate Jackman-Atkinson

On Jan. 16, the Town of Neepawa and HyLife Foods hosted an open house for the proposed upgrades to the pork processing facility and the R3 Innovations Wastewater Treatment Facility (IWWTF) to support proposed expansion of the plant. The open house and public consultation was part of the process for the project’s environmental assessment (EA). While the plant’s process won’t be changing, any significant physical changes to the plant require environmental approval.

R3 Innovations is a joint venture between the Town of Neepawa and HyLife Foods and this industrial wastewater treatment plant processes all of the wastewater from HyLife’s pork processing facility.

The increase in processing will increase all aspects of the HyLife plant operations including adding new final products and increasing the final product output. They plan to add casing processing (for use in sausages), as well as heparin production (an anti-coagulant extracted from the small intestine.

Sheldon Stott, HyLife’s director of Environmental Affairs, says that most processing plants do this already and currently, HyLife ships these products to be processed elsewhere.

The plant would like to increase production from 27,550 hogs/week to 37,500 hogs/week, which would mean two full kill shifts and two cut shifts. This would result in approximately 300 more employees.

As part of the changes,  the plant will be requiring more water, for both employee needs, such as washrooms and food service and the casings processing. As a result of the changes, the plant will be increasing the strength of waste water sent to the IWWTF.

The expansion of production means an increase in the plant’s size. The casings operation will require a 353m2 expansion, the cut floor expansion will require an additional 910 m2, the snap chill and cooler expansion will require 3,225 m2 (this was previously approved but never implemented), the welfare area expansion will be 264 m2 and the mechanical area expansion will be 176 m2. 

In order to accommodate the wastewater generated by the additional processing at the HyLife Foods facility, additional infrastructure will be required at the IWWTF to continue to meet license conditions.  These include a new aeration basin, a blower unit, membrane cassettes in each membrane tank, an additional UV unit and the replacement of sludge pumps. Two additional operators will also be required. While R3 Innovations is a joint project between the Town of Neepawa and HyLife, Stott stressed that none of the upgrade costs will be borne by the Town; HyLife will pay for all of them.

The R3 Innovations IWWTF has been operating well within the concentrations set out in the Environmental Act License limits and this is expected to continue with the proposed alterations. The proposed changes will still result in the plant meeting the treatment requirements of their environmental license, this includes limits on the flow and quality to ensure protection of surface water and aquatic resources. Since the project, both the expansion at the plant and the expansion to the IWWTF, is to occur on previously disturbed areas on an active industrial site, the current EA found no concerns about soils, vegetation or wildlife.  There is no native vegetation in the project site and the EA found no water or aquatic resources concerns.

As for the timeline, in March, HyLife and the Town will submit the new EA to the Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship departments. The EA will then be posted to the public registry for review and comment and a license decision from Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship is expected by July 2013. Construction of the previously approved snap chill and cooler are planned to begin early this year. The rest of the project is expected to begin construction in 2013 and 2014, pending approval. It will take nine to 16 months to complete the project.