The olive-oil extraction industry is an economically important activity for many countries of the Mediterranean Sea area, with Spain, Greece and Italy being the major producers. This activity, however, may represent a serious environmental problem due to the discharge of highly polluted effluents, usually referred to as ‘olive mill wastewaters’ (OMWs). They are characterized by high values of chemical oxygen demand (COD) (80–300 g/L), lipids, total polyphenols (TPP), tannins and other substances difficult to degrade. An adequate treatment before discharging is therefore required to reduce the pollutant load. The aim of the present paper was to evaluate performances of a biological process in a sequencing batch reactor (SBR) fed with pre-treated OMWs. Pre-treatment consisted of a combined acid cracking (AC) and granular activated carbon (GAC) adsorption process. The efficiency of the system was compared with that of an identical SBR fed with the raw wastewater only diluted. Combined AC and GAC adsorption was chosen to be used prior to the following biological process due to its capability of providing high removal efficiencies of COD and TPP and also appreciable improvement of biodegradability. Comparing results obtained with different influents showed that best performances of the SBR were obtained by feeding it with raw diluted OMWs (dOMWs) and at the lowest dilution ratio (1:25): in this case, the removal efficiencies were 90 and 76%, as average, for COD and TPP, respectively. Feeding the SBR with either the pre-treated or the raw dOMWs at 1:50 gave very similar values of COD reduction (74%); however, an improvement of the TPP removal was observed in the former case.

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