Yesterday morning, two 55-foot silos outside of Tacoma’s Almond Roca factory were cleaned for the first time.

One of the silos outside of the Almond Roca factory. Photo by Zoe Branch.

The silos — which were purchased from an auction by Brown & Haley (makers of Almond Roca) about five years ago and which have been in use for about three — each hold 160,000 pounds of sugar. Yesterday, contractors flushed built-up sugar water from the silos.

The sugar water is destined not for a waste stream, but rather for beehives.

“Almond Roca reached out to the City of Tacoma to see if they could bring what was washed out of the silos to the wastewater center down the street,” said Christina Lorella, community relations officer at City of Tacoma Environmental Services. “It so happened that an amateur beekeeper works at the wastewater treatment plant and suggested that we think of a more sustainable answer.”

And that they did. A partnership has formed between Brown & Haley, the City of Tacoma, and local beekeepers who can use the sugar water to supplement their bees’ caloric intake in the colder months. The water was cleaned from the silos, then transported via special equipment to the TAGRO facility, where beekeepers will be able to pick up sugar water after experts have tested it for safety — likely in two to three weeks.

“A representative from the Pierce County Beekeepers Association is monitoring and labeling each of the products that come out,” said Kathy Rennaker, Brown & Haley marketing director. “He’ll measure the ratios of sugar to water — different ratios are used in different times of the year as supplements, depending on what the bees need.”

The solution is a win for all partners: Rennaker said she is happy to have found a way to repurpose what would have been a byproduct for the factory; the City doesn’t have to deal with the sugar water in the waste stream; and local beekeepers have free access to something that will help their hives.

“We plan on doing this every year to prevent sugar buildup, and to supply sugar water to beekeepers,” Rennaker said.

Interested beekeepers can pick up sugar water starting mid-November, Lorella said. The water will be available during TAGRO’s regular business hours between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Lorella estimated that 1,100 gallons will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The address for pickup is: Central Treatment Plant Gate 6, 2301 Cleveland Way, Tacoma, WA 98421.