Laurel malt plant works with City of Seaford to discharge wastewater

By Lynn R. Parks

The Proximity malt plant in Laurel will be up and running this month. While the current weather isnt helping the plant to get its doors open, spokeswoman Amy Germershausen said that Proximity expects to start turning out malted barley before the start of February.

The plant is located in the former Laurel Grain Co. on alternate U.S. 13 south of town. Proximity Malt, based in Milwaukee, bought the property in December 2015 and has been adding to it and renovating it to make it into a malting plant.

The company will sell the malt to brewers in the mid-Atlantic area. When it is fully operational, the plant will employ 20 to 25 people and will turn out 25,000 tons of malt a year. Germershausen was not able to say when that will be.

Proximity is also working to get a wastewater treatment plant on the site up and running. Water that it uses to wash and soak the grain has to be treated and disposed of properly.

In the meantime, the company will truck wastewater to Laurel and Seaford municipal wastewater treatment plants for processing. Germershausen said that the plant will generate between 60,000 and 90,000 gallons of malt process water a day.

In December, the Seaford City Council approved an agreement with Proximity allowing the plant to discharge wastewater into the citys treatment plant. The one-year agreement allows Proximity to deliver to the Seaford plant up to 47,500 gallons of wastewater per day; the city will charge the company four cents per gallon to treat the waste. The city reserves the right to refuse the wastewater, should it determine that the treatment plant cant handle it.

The Laurel plant is one of two Proximity plants in the United States. The other, in Monte Vista, Colo., started production in June.

As with the Delaware site, the Colorado plant is on a rehabilitated brownfield site.

The company, which was started in 2015, has also renovated an old plating factory in Milwaukee as a collaboration center, for research and development.

Both the Colorado and Laurel sites were selected because of their proximity to areas where there is stable barley production. In 2010, 35,000 acres throughout Delaware were planted in barley, a crop that sold for $1.816 million in total, according to the states Department of Agriculture.

At first, barley is the only grain that will be malted at Proximity. The company is looking for area farmers who are interested in growing barley for processing. For information, send an email to malt@proximitymalt.com.

Eventually, the facility will malt other grains, Germershausen said. Wheat, rye, rice and oats can be malted. The states wheat crop, grown on 80,000 acres, brought in $14.254 million in 2010.

What is malt?

Malt is the result of a process in which grains are soaked in water so that they germinate and then dried with hot air. Malting produces enzymes that allow the grains starches to be converted to sugars and its proteins into forms that can be used by yeast to create alcohol.

Malt has been used as an ingredient in beer for centuries. According to the website allaboutbeer.com, all of the color in beer comes from the malt. A lightly roasted malt will produce a very pale beer, while deep roasting means a dark beer.

Malt is also used in making whiskey and malt vinegar and can be made into malt powder or syrup for use in milkshakes and candy.

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