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Phytodepuration for olive mill waste water disposal

Phytodepuration takes advantage of the capability of plants to stimulate rhizospheric microbial action through root exudates and to accelerate the degradation of compounds in the soil. A new application of this purification process has been developed as a treatment for the olive mill waste water disposal.
Phytodepuration for olive mill waste water disposal
Waste water from the olive oil extraction process is a significant source of pollution, due to its high organic content, especially in the form of phenols and polyphenols. These compounds are not degraded by microflora; and anaerobic digestion provides for only 80-90% disposal, insufficient to permit effluent discharge into the environment. Other technologies are not cost-effective because of the small size of extraction plants and seasonal nature of production.

Phytodepuration, that is the artificial reproduction of natural wetlands with the amplification of their natural depurative processes, offers an effective solution with low costs of realisation and management and low energy consumption. Such a purification process can take place in a plant consisting of absorbing tanks and arboreous plants. For this purpose, plants that have been proven to be resistant to the toxicity of olive oil waste water and have demonstrated an adequate physiological development are used.

The phytodepuration plant works like a "bioreactor under open sky", inside which the parameters are controlled by plants, acting as biosensors for the soil environment and stimulators of the metabolic activity of micro-organisms. During the entire year water and mineral compounds are absorbed by the plants, while the organic substance enriches the soil humus fraction.

With this technology positive effects on the environment and an economic return for the olive farmer can be achieved. Industrial partners and engineering companies are sought for co-operation in the improvement of the soil remediation technology and commercial partners for the introduction of the phytodepuration plant into market.
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