Comparing treatment technologies for olive mill wastewater

Elsevier journal Water Research.
Elsevier journal Water Research.


Olive mill wastewater (OMW) is a major waste stream resulting from numerous operations that occur during the production stages of olive oil. The resulting effluent contains various organic and inorganic contaminants and its environmental impact can be notable.

The present work aims at investigating the efficiency of:

  1. jet-loop reactor with ultrafiltration (UF) membrane system (Jacto.MBR);
  2. solar photo-Fenton oxidation after coagulation/flocculation pre-treatment; and
  3. integrated membrane filtration processes (i.e. UF/nanofiltration (NF)) used for the treatment of OMW.

According to the results, the efficiency of the biological treatment was high, equal to 90% COD and 80% total phenolic compounds (TPh) removal.

A COD removal higher than 94% was achieved by applying the solar photo-Fenton oxidation process as post-treatment of coagulation/flocculation of OMW, while the phenolic fraction was completely eliminated.

The combined UF/NF process resulted in very high conductivity and COD removal, up to 90% and 95%, respectively, while TPh were concentrated in the NF concentrate stream (i.e. 93% concentration). Quite important is the fact that the NF concentrate, a valuable and polyphenol rich stream, can be further valorized in various industries (e.g. food, pharmaceutical, etc.).

The above treatment processes were found also to be able to reduce the initial OMW phytotoxicity at greenhouse experiments; with the effluent stream of solar photo-Fenton process to be the least phytotoxic compared to the other treated effluents.

A SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis was performed, in order to determine both the strengths of each technology, as well as the possible obstacles that need to overcome for achieving the desired levels of treatment.

Finally, an economic evaluation of the tested technologies was performed in an effort to measure the applicability and viability of these systems at real scale; highlighting that the cost cannot be regarded as a 'cut off criterion', since the most cost-effective option in not always the optimum one.

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