Olive oil extraction is one of the most important traditional food industries in the Mediterranean region, especially in Italy. In addition to olive oil, this industry produces by-products, in particular olive mill wastewaters (OMWs) and olive husks, which represent a serious environmental problem. OMWs can be rarely treated in a municipal WWTP, using conventional wastewater treatments. A novel biological process has to be considered in order to treat OMWs. Literature data show that yeasts and different kinds of fungi are able to reduce both the organic and the phenolic content of the OMW. The present work is aimed at investigating the growth of a biomass rich in fungi in a batch reactor filled with OMW and its capacity to degrade the organic and phenolic load. The aerobic OMW degradation obtained using this biomass reached a COD and TP removal efficiency of 86 and 70%, respectively. Respirometric tests have been carried out in order to measure the biomass activity on different substrates: OMW and phenolic compounds (gallic and p-coumaric acids). The polyphenolic biodegradation efficiency of fungi biomass was higher than the one of a non-acclimated activated sludge biomass. Fungi biomass was able to completely degrade pure phenolic compounds.

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