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Innovative Methods for Optimization of Surface Aerobic Bio-composting (SABC) Technique in Managing Molasses based Distillery Wastewater, MS, India

Author Affiliations

  • 1 Department of Environmental Science; Shivaji University, Kolhapur, MS, INDIA
  • 2 Development, Research, Awareness and Action Institute (DEVRAAI), Kolhapur, MS, INDIA

Int. Res. J. Environment Sci., Volume 2, Issue (11), Pages 23-45, November,22 (2013)


The distillery wastewater - spentwash - is a highly polluting effluent generated in considerable quantities subsequent to alcohol manufacturing from molasses (a by-product of a sugar factory). So far, number of systems such as anaerobic / facultative lagoons and ponds, anaerobic digesters, solar evaporation and drying, incineration, DIEG (drying after concentration; incineration and energy generation), concentration and incineration by using supportive fuels, aquatic treatment system (ATS) etc. have been tried for spentwash treatment and disposal. Most of them suffered serious limitations while offering limited or no success. Huge land requirements, enormous energy inputs, unhealthy economics, ground water and air pollution, non-consistent working were the prominent limitations faced by most of the treatment methodologies tried. Eventually spentwash composting option came forward as it was felt promising and economically viable. Though initially pit composting was practiced by many distilleries, due to some major disadvantages, it was discontinued. Later on, the on ground composting practice was adopted subsequent to directions and guidelines from Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB); New Delhi. The bio-composting of spentwash along with filler materials such as pressmud, ash, waste bagasse and agro residue seemed a viable alternative towards treatment and disposal of the distillery waste. However, while working on same, almost all of the effluent treatment facility operators relied on personal judgments while carrying out the composting mostly through trial and error methods. This was due to non-availability of precise mass balance for the substrate materials, lack of understanding of their properties and inability in exercising control on the process parameters due to paucity of appropriate data. The operators were obsessed by the sole objective of disposal of entire spentwash by consuming it totally on available filler materials. The composting operation thus lacked proficient controls, experienced judgments, skilled supervision and adoption of best management practices (BMPs). In light of above facts and modest experience in distillery wastewater management, it was planned to study and evaluate the spentwash composting process being practiced conventionally, at a number of distilleries. For the same detailed laboratory scale experimentation, pilot studies and field scale trials were conducted, in phases, over five years during summer and winter seasons. Under the characterization studies, for each phase, physico-chemical parameters viz. pH, total solids (TS), moisture contents, bulk weights (densities), N, P, K, TVS, ash contents, organic contents, sulphates and C/N ratio for all individual substrate materials were analysed. Tests were also conducted for mixing and blending of the individual solid feed materials in various proportions to observe effects on pH, TS, moisture contents, bulk weights, porosity and free air spaces (FAS) of the resultant feed mix. Further conditioning of pressmud was done through compost recycle and introduction of an amendment in the form of cane trash to improve the solids loading in the in-feed to a compost system. Evaluation of biodegradability, porosity and FAS in the substrate matrix were also done. Performances of composting systems, while changing spentwash loading under various phases, were studied with varied porosity and FAS. Also, the single step and two step composting process configurations for spentwash treatment and disposal were studied and evaluated. It was noted that the losses of biodegradable volatile solids were directly proportional to TS contents of a compost system. Further, from the mass balance, it was also observed that when the quantity of spentwash to a composting windrow was reduced, the overall system TS were found to be increased. The feed conditioning offered distinct advantage towards improvement in the in-feed TS thereby resulting in to enhanced performance. Also, it was revealed that bulk weights of in-feed and compost product decreased with increase in TS to the system which proved that there was improvement in interstices and air spaces in body matrix of both. Thus feed mix could absorb more moisture due to decreased bulk weights and hence could sustain more spentwash loading without leaching. For compost product, bulk weight reduction was nothing but decrease in water (moisture) in the matrix which could lead to an easy and efficient handling, transportation and land application of the product. Eventually, the two step composting proved to be better than single step process due to certain distinct constructional and operational features offering best performance towards biodegradability and BVS losses.


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