First look: The mobile plant that will purify wastewater for beer

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A first-of-its-kind mobile treatment plant will begin purifying wastewater next month to help create beer. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A first-of-its-kind mobile treatment plant will begin purifying wastewater next month to help create beer. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The five-stage treatment plant will begin churning out purified water during the first week of June for testing. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The five-stage treatment plant will begin churning out purified water during the first week of June for testing. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Dozens of breweries have signed on or expressed interest in the bracket-style beer competition, including O.H.S.O. Brewery in Phoenix, and Tucson-based Dragoon Brewing Company and Dillinger Brewing Company. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Dozens of breweries have signed on or expressed interest in the bracket-style beer competition, including O.H.S.O. Brewery in Phoenix, and Tucson-based Dragoon Brewing Company and Dillinger Brewing Company. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Although unlikely to be a major source of drinking water in the near-term, Jeff Prevatt said purified wastewater could be a critical backup supply in some water-strapped communities. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Although unlikely to be a major source of drinking water in the near-term, Jeff Prevatt said purified wastewater could be a critical backup supply in some water-strapped communities. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A first-of-its-kind mobile treatment plant will begin purifying wastewater next month for a more delicious purpose: beer.

Pima County's mobile treatment plant is inside a 40-foot cargo container. It will be mounted to a semi-truck and driven to communities across Arizona this summer to showcase advances in wastewater treatment technology.

Currently, state law prohibits utilities from using recycled wastewater for drinking purposes, but the treatment plant and the public relations campaign surrounding it are a key test program as the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality considers revising the rule.

“The technology has improved so drastically over the last 20 years, it’s ready for this,” said Jeff Prevatt of the Pima County Wastewater Reclamation Department.

The five-stage treatment plant will begin churning out purified water during the first week of June for testing, Prevatt said. Once tests confirm the purity, Pima County will begin sending the water to Arizona brewers for a statewide competition.

[RELATED: Pima County proposes statewide brewery competition -- with purified wastewater]

Prevatt said he hoped to begin sending the water in late June, with the first brews ready the following month.

“We acknowledge that people are going to have that yuck factor,” he said. “We want to take it to them and say, ‘Try it for yourself.’”

The truck and the "Pure Water Brew Challenge" are funded by a $250,000 water innovation grant, and thousands of dollars of equipment donations from sponsors.

Dozens of breweries have signed on or expressed interest in the bracket-style beer competition, including O.H.S.O. Brewery in Phoenix, and Tucson-based Dragoon Brewing Company and Dillinger Brewing Company.

“Growing up in Tucson, there's always this ever-looming threat of running out of water,” said Eric Rosas of Dillinger.

“If all the brewers come together, then everyone will back us,” added Dillinger co-founder, Eric Sipe.

“You get your jokes out of way about using treated water, and then once we all say it's OK, then I think people will give it a try and realize you're still going to be able to drink from it – and make really good beer with this,” Sipe said.

From toilets to sinks, Arizonans create about 800 million gallons of wastewater every day. If cities purified that much wastewater, Arizona could draw about 40 percent less from the Colorado River, Prevatt said.

Although unlikely to be a major source of drinking water in the near-term, Prevatt said purified wastewater could be a critical backup supply in some water-strapped communities.

Beginning to tap purified wastewater in Arizona will “extend our water portfolios for decades to come,” he said.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

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Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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