Struggles don’t stop Omega
Reedville’s menhaden processor, Omega Protein, may be under pressure from groups who want to put it out of business, work within tight landing limits imposed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and not know how a new menhaden stock assessment will turn out, but that hasn’t stopped the facility from investing in its Northumberland County plant.
In addition to a pair of new steamers ‑ menhaden fishing ships ‑ Omega has recently installed a new water processing system that will save 18 million gallons of well water annually.
The system, which includes a state of the art Dupps evaporator, cost “right at $5 million,” Omega spokesman Ben Landry said Monday.
The system substitutes water reclaimed from its operations for water drawn from wells. Some of the water is created when the fish are processed and a great deal of it is water taken aboard the steamers to keep the caught fish cool, “refrigeration water,” Landry said.
The water is treated and then used in the plant to wash down equipment and to seal the vacuum pump in the company’s evaporator.
In the past, the water would have been treated and dumped in Cockrells Creek or the Chesapeake Bay, Landry said.
Before the times of environmental concerns, old time menhaden processors would have dumped the water untreated.
Omega’s Environmental Manager Bill Purcell showed off the new system to other companies at the Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA)’s recent Virginia Industrial and Environmental Conference (VIEC).
“He really knocked it out of the park,” Landry said.
Water reclamation and reuse is just one of several environmentally-conscious initiatives undertaken at Omega Protein’s Reedville facility in recent years, Landry noted. The price tag on these upgrades, including the new water system, is over $20 million and includes switching to renewable diesel oil (waste animal fats) a cleaner burning carbon neutral fuel, in the company’s boilers at the processing facility.·It has also installed modern airless dryers that allow the company to incinerate non-condensable gases. (Omega Protein is the only location in North America with this technology.)
The two new steamers are equipped with two new Tier 2 engines and five new auxiliary Tier 2 engines which burn less fuel and therefore reduce emissions.
As Omega brought its improvements on line, the ASMFC was gearing up for a new stock assessment in an attempt to figure out just how many menhaden there are and how healthy the stock is. Last week, the commission announced that it welcomes the submission of data that will improve the accuracy of the assessment. Useful data includes, but is not limited to, data on commercial landings and discards, catch per unit of effort, biological samples (length or age frequency), and life history information (growth, maturity, fecundity, spawning stock biomass weights, natural mortality).
While the information is welcomed, it must be submitted in proper form, the ASMFC noted. The data must be sent in the required format, with accompanying description of methods, to the Commission by Dec. 1.
For more information on submitting data, including the appropriate format, and/or attending the Atlantic menhaden data workshop (space is limited), please contact Dr. Genny Nesslage, ASMFC Stock Assessment Scientist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-842-0740.