Design, installation, and assessment of a biological winery wastewater treatment system
Currently in South Africa, most wastewater from small cellars is pH-adjusted and disposed of via land irrigation. This practice can lead to environmental degradation. There is a need for low cost, low maintenance solutions for the treatment of cellar effluent. Constructed wetlands provide such an option. However, the use of plants is problematic because winery effluent can be phytotoxic. After successful initial laboratory-scale experiments, an in-situ pilot scale biological sand filter (unplanted constructed wetland) system was designed, installed, and used to treat effluent from a small winery in the Western Cape, South Africa. The system is off-grid, totally self-regulating, and uses a modular approach which allows for the addition and subtraction of filter modules within the system to alter treatment capacity, retention time and/or rest filter modules. The system can be easily integrated into existing settling basins and/or retention ponds at small wineries. The biological sand filter was operational for 610 days, and showed promising results. The average chemical oxygen demand removal efficiency was 81% (range: 44-98%) with an average effluent of 324 mg/L, and an average flow rate of 413 L/day after the acclimation (start-up) period. The average hydraulic loading rate after the initial start-up period was 143 L/m3 sand day-1 (range: 67-222/m3 sand day-1), with an organic loading rate of 205 gCOD/m3 of sand day-1 (range: 83-338 gCOD/m3 sand day-1) which resulted in an organic removal rate of 164 gCOD/m3 of sand day-1. There was an average of 67% removal of total phenolics, thereby reducing the potential phytotoxicity of the effluent. In addition, there was a 1.6 times increase in calcium concentration, a 29% decrease in the average sodium adsorption ratio, and complete passive neutralisation of the acidic winery wastewater (final effluent pH range: 6.63 – 8.14. The findings of this study compare well with previous laboratory studies conducted with synthetic and authentic winery effluent. The system can potentially provide a low cost, energy efficient, low maintenance, sustainable means of treating cellar effluent at small wineries. Uptake of this technology may alleviate environmental degradation caused by irrigating land with inadequately treated effluent.