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Corporate leaders

Corporations, because of their size and magnitude of resource use, can have a tremendous impact on water consumption and river ecology. By changing the way it cools industrial water, General Mills saved money and water to the benefit of the watershed.

Dottie Shay, environmental coordinator at General Mills Bakeries and Foodservice, began looking in 1995 for alternatives to water use and treatment at the company's Chanhassen plant. Two evaporative condenser cooling tower systems at that facility cool the ammonia refrigerant needed for food processing and storage. The objective was to reduce or eliminate the chemical treatment of cooling tower water and to improve worker safety through reduction of hazardous materials handling.

Her efforts paid off. Working with the A. W. Chesterton Company and in cooperation with Excel Energy, General Mills installed in 1999 a new, nontraditional cooling water treatment technology, called VRTX, that uses a mechanical treatment system. The benefits to the environment, company, employees, and neighbors include:

  • 40 percent reduction in annual water usage (3.7 million gallons) in the cooling towers
  • Reductions in emissions related to consuming 1.8 million fewer kilowatt-hours, including 6,200 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 5,999 pounds of nitrous oxide, 400 pounds of particulates, and 2.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
  • Reductions by thousands of gallons per year in the use of chlorine solution, sulfuric acid, and other hazardous chemicals.
  • Reductions in 300 gallons per year of micro biocides and algaecides.
  • Reductions in the cost of handling hazardous materials totaling more than $100,000 a year.

In recognition of these substantial improvements, General Mills, Incorporated was the recipient of a 2002 Governor's Award for Excellence in Waste and Pollution Prevention in Minnesota. Plant Manager Lane Paolocci said "the innovative application of this technology has been applied across the General Mills company to the benefit of 21 additional communities in the United States, and is being considered for international application."

For more information, go online to www.pca.state.mn.us.

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