Currently there are no suitable wastewater treatment systems for effluents from small food processing industries (dairy, cheese, wine production). Such raw sewages are characterized by high organic matter concentrations (about 10 g COD L−1) and relatively low daily volumes (about 2 m3). An adaptation of attached-growth cultures on fine media processes, known to be easy and inexpensive to use, could fit both the technical and economical context of those industries. Coarser filter particle size distributions than those normally used allow a better aeration and reduce clogging risk. The transit time of the effluent through the porous filter materials is shortened and requires recycling to increase the contact time between the biomass and the substrate. A pilot plant was built to compare the efficiency of two kinds of filter materials, gravel (2-5 mm) and pozzolana (3-7 mm). Two measurement campaigns were undertaken on a full-scale unit dealing with cheese dairy effluents. Both pilot-scale and full-scale plants show high COD removal rates (>95%). Pilot-scale experiments show that accumulation of organic matter leads to the clogging of the recycling filter. To prevent early clogging, a better definition of feeding cycles is needed.

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