The efficiency of the anaerobic treatment of olive pomace leachate (OPL) at mesophilic conditions was investigated. Daily and cumulative biogas production was measured during the operational period. The maximum biogas flowrate was 65 L/d, of which 50% was methane. In addition, the applicability of electrochemical oxidation as an advanced post-treatment method for the complete removal of chemical oxygen demand (COD) from the anaerobically treated OPL was evaluated. The diluted OPL, having a pH of 6.5 and a total COD of 5 g/L, was first treated in a 600 L, pilot-scale up-flow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor. The UASB reactor was operated for 71 days at mesophilic conditions (32 ± 2 °C) in a temperature-controlled environment at a hydraulic retention time of 3 days, and organic loading rates (OLR) between 0.33 and 1.67 g COD/(L.d). The UASB process led to a COD removal efficiency between 35 and 70%, while the particulate matter of the wastewater was effectively removed by entrapment in the sludge blanket of the reactor. When the anaerobic reactor effluent was post-treated over a boron-doped diamond (BDD) anode at 18 A and in the presence of 0.17% NaCl as the supporting electrolyte, complete removal of COD was attained after 7 h of treatment predominantly through total oxidation reactions. During electrochemical experiments, three groups of organo-chlorinated compounds, namely trihalomethanes (THMs), haloacetonitriles (HANs) and haloketons (HKs), as well as 1,2-dichloroethane (DCA) and chloropicrin were identified as by-products of the process; these, along with the residual chlorine are thought to increase the matrix ecotoxicity to Artemia salina.
Keywords: Anaerobic treatment; Chlorination by-products; Ecotoxicity; Electrochemical treatment; Olive pomace leachate.
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