Creamery incurs high costs due to inflexible plumbing code

Image courtesy of Pam Robinson

When Pam and Ray Robinson decided to start building a creamery to make cheese on their Hardwick dairy farm in 2010, they ran into multiple unexpected expenses. While most creameries use PVC pipes for plumbing, the Massachusetts Building Code considers on-farm creameries to be commercial operations versus agricultural or residential and so required the Robinsons to use cast iron pipes. There was an appeal option, but no cheesemaker was known to be successful appealing at the State Board of Plumbing & Gas Fitters – and the process is long and delays are costly. The cast iron piping requirement, coupled with a required upgrade to a grease trap that was considered a sanitation risk by Mass DPH resulted in an additional $40,000 in costs.

Additional expenses may occur in the future, since cast iron tends to disintegrate from the acidity in whey and the acid wash used to clean equipment. The unexpected requirements did not enhance food safety, but rather increased potential food safety risks.

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