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Biodegradation. 2009 Nov;20(6):845-58. doi: 10.1007/s10532-009-9272-0. Epub 2009 Jul 15.

Olive mill wastewater disposal in evaporation ponds in Sfax (Tunisia): moisture content effect on microbiological and physical chemical parameters.

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UR Etude et Gestion des Environnements Urbains et Côtiers, Ecole Nationale d'Ingénieurs de Sfax, Sfax, Tunisia.


The study of the isotherms desorption of olive mill wastewater (OMW) was investigated to describe its water activity under different saturated environments. The microbial biodegradation of OMW during its storage in 5 evaporation ponds located in Agareb (Sfax-Tunisia) was carried out during the oil-harvesting year held 105 days in 2004. Gravimetric static method using saturated salt solutions was used and OMW as placed at 30 degrees C and under different water activities ranging from 0.11 to 0.90. Eight models were taken from the literature to describe experimental desorption isotherms. During storage, the evolution of physico-chemical parameters including pH, temperature, evaporation, humidity, total phosphorus, chemical oxygen demand (COD), biological oxygen demand (BOD) and phenols and three microbiological flora (aerobic mesophilic bacteria, yeasts and moulds) were considered. At 30 degrees C, when relative humidity increased in the experimented ponds of 69, 84 and 90%, the evaporation speed decreased from 1.24 x 10(-5) to 5 x 10(-6) cm(3) s(-1), from 6 x 10(-5) to 7 x 10(-6) cm(3) s(-1) and from 5 x 10(-6) to 1.1 x 10(-7) cm(3) s(-1) respectively. The desorption isotherm exhibited a sigmoidal curve corresponding to type II, typical of many organic material. The GAB and Peleg models gave the best fit for describing the relationship between the equilibrium moisture content and water activity in OMW (R (2) = 0.998). During the storage period, the analysis showed an increase of all the physico-chemical parameters studied, except phenols and total phosphorus concentrations. The microbiological study showed the predominance of yeasts and moulds and the decrease of bacteria population after 75 days reflecting both effect of recalcitrant compounds and the water activity on microbial growth.

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