Success story Bolivia / Step by step to a functioning wastewater treatment plant.

The family business “Flor de Leche” is known for good cheese and sustainable management. Flor de Leche” treats its wastewater with a biological wastewater treatment plant. Suddenly, however, biogas stopped being produced, and the permitted limits for impurities began to be exceeded. At this point, Teresa Gilles asked the Senior Expert Contact (SEC) for assistance. With support from an environmental engineer from Zug, she developed a process to continuously monitor the plant.

Very close to the idyllic Achocalla lagoon near La Paz the “Flor de Leche” company has its home. In addition to cheese production, “Flor de Leche” is also an excursion destination for tourists with a restaurant and informative tours of the plant. Rainer Kistler was not able to see all of this during his assignment. This was because he had to advise “Flor de Leche” via ZOOM due to COVID-19.

The SEC expert could not travel to Bolivia to see the malfunctioning wastewater treatment plant for himself. Instead, Milena and Ernesto had to familiarize him with it during the initial meetings. During this process, the three soon discovered that the plans for the plant did not match what had actually been constructed. There was also no documentation of the processes. So, the first step was to document the plant and how it worked. Only then could Milena Pérez Flores, Ernesto Jordán Peña and Rainer Kistler turn their attention to the original problem: finding out why the wastewater treatment plant was not working properly. For one thing, the plant was no longer producing biogas, and for another, the measured values of the treated wastewater regularly exceeded the legally permitted limits for impurities.

Systematic measurements lead to optimized processes
Rainer Kistler’s first step was to initiate a systematic measurement regime to check how the individual process steps were functioning. Only with regular measurements and reliable data is there a basis for well-founded decisions. During this long-term process, contrary to expectations, one advantage of a remote consultation became apparent: Since changes to the purification process take a certain amount of time before results can be seen, had he been on site, Rainer Kistler would not have been able to do much with his time in between measurements.

Following the instructions from the SEC expert, the “Flor de Leche” team started with regular wastewater measurements as well as a systematic recording of the data. For one, this allowed them to make adjustments that led to better functioning of the plant. For another, it allows them to ensure that their wastewater complies with legal requirements.

The client:
The company “Flor de Leche” was founded in 1998 by Stanislas Gilles de Pelichy and Valentina Yanahuaya in Achocalla. Today it is managed by Teresa Gilles, the second generation. Since the company’s inception, emphasis has been placed not only on high-quality dairy products, but also on social and environmental sustainability. “Flor de Leche” offers milk prices above government guidelines to milk producers in the region. They also apply a payment system based on milk quality. This means that the higher the quality of the milk, the more the producer earns.

For the employees’ children, “Flor de Leche” offers in-house childcare. In PURIRISUN, children from two to four years of age can be brought in for care.

Questions to SEC expert Rainer Kistler

How do you assess the results achieved by the consultations in general?
A very important output of the consultation was that someone felt responsible for the wastewater treatment plant and dealt with its functioning. Thanks to the systematic monitoring of the individual process steps, those responsible at Flor de Leche have a better understanding of what is happening in the plant. And most importantly, they recognize at an early stage (and not only when the limits are exceeded in the outlet) when the plant is not functioning properly.

What impressed you most in this digital consulting assignment?
I was a bit sceptical at first, because it is very strange to optimize a plant without ever having stood in front of it and seen it with one’s own eyes. However, Milena and Ernesto took great pains to describe the individual parts of the plant to me and to illustrate them with photos and videos.

What surprised you or what didn’t work as expected?
Overall, I was really surprised at how well the remote consultation worked. I think if I had been on site, I would have been able to do a lot less, as mentioned earlier.

Where did you run into limitations with this type of consulting?
Since there are no construction plans or the like for the plant, it was sometimes not so easy to find out where which pipes, gate valves and pumps are and how they are connected. This is despite the descriptions of Milena and Ernesto. For example, sometimes connecting pipes or valves “popped up” between parts of the plant that had not been mentioned in earlier discussions.

Did you continue to have contact with the client after the job was completed? With what kind of support?
I still have sporadic contact with Milena. She sends me recent measurements from time to time. From this I can see that the system is still working well.

What impact has the Corona pandemic had on the customer?
Flor de Leche had to cut back production, which also resulted in significantly less wastewater. This was not a problem for the wastewater treatment plant.