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Water Treatment Company Brews Up Plan to Make Beer from Sewage Water

This should make for some very interesting beer labels.

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In these days of refrigeration, pasteurization, and sanitation, beer is a beverage we enjoy for two things: flavor and alcohol content. But historically beer served another purpose, too: It was a source of safe drinking water.

And now, a cadre of Portland home brewers is planning to return beer to its roots by brewing with sewage water. Of course, the water will be treated first. These are modern times after all.

According to a recent article by Oregon Public Broadcasting, Hillsboro-based water treatment plant Clean Water Services, which operates four water treatment plants in the metro area, has come up with a new triple-purification water cleansing system that they say can convert waste water into water that meets or exceeds all drinking water standards. And to prove it, they've invited home brewers from the Oregon Brew Crew to make beer with it.

Although it does raise some interesting questions about, you know, terroir (seriously, brewers are notoriously picky about their water), the state is more concerned about safety.

Typically, treated waste water is used for agricultural or industrial purposes, and to recharge the groundwater. To be able to offer the treated water to the brewers, Clean Water Services had to get permission from the Oregon Health Authority. The brewers will make small batches for serving at events, but the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission will have to sign off before the beer can be offered to the public.

Part of that red tape involves a public hearing in Portland on Feb. 12, hosted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Even if the commission does approve it, there will be even more state approvals required before the beers can be served.

So, is this simply a publicity stunt or a pro-active plan to ensure a safe drinking water supply?

Clean Water Services spokesman Mark Jockers told OPB:  "When people think about it enough it makes sense, although the initial knee-jerk reaction might be ‘yuck.' We want to start having this conversation now before we get into the drought situation that California and Texas and Australia have gotten into, so we can get the rules and safeguards in place that will allow greater use of this resource."

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