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Advanced systems for the enhancement of the environmental performance of WINEries in Cyprus (WINEC)
Start date: Feb 1, 2010, End date: Oct 31, 2012 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background Wine production and wine tourism is a growing economic activity for the island of Cyprus – while overall production has fallen over the past two decades, the emphasis among Cypriot winemakers today is on the production of quality wines and the expansion of locally-based activities such as wine tours, tastings and sales at, or close to, vineyards. The reputation of this smaller wine producing country (14th among European winemakers [industry sources 2010]) is also on the increase internationally, with exports to other EU countries and worldwide, for example, to Russia and the United States. There is, however, an environmental downside as the winemaking process also produces large volumes of liquid and solid waste. Wastewater originates from various washing steps during the crushing and pressing of grapes, as well as rinsing of fermentation tanks, barrels, bottles and other equipment. Volumes and pollution loads change significantly over the year, in relation to the working period and the winemaking technologies used. The total wastewater production of a winery is estimated to be 1.2 times greater than the production of wine. Solid waste, including skins, stems, pips, lees and sludge, is also produced. Both the wastewater and effluent need to be managed appropriately, prior to their final disposal in fields or receiving water bodies. Most of the 50 or so Cypriot wineries do not have biological treatment plants in place. Even though the relevant legislation exists, a large number of the mainly small wineries still spread their effluent in fields without any treatment, therefore polluting groundwater resources. Other problems associated with the operation of wineries include the increased consumption of water for cleaning the fermentation tanks, barrels and other equipment, the energy consumed for cooling and maintenance, as well as various air emissions. Objectives The WINEC project aimed to identify the environmental problems associated with wine production in Cyprus, and to set up an environmental management system (EMS) for the Tsiakkas winery (a partner) in western Cyprus. Specific objectives were to: Design and develop a pilot wastewater treatment plant for the Tsiakkas winery, i.e. a membrane bioreactor (MBR), followed by further treatment by solar oxidation; Set up an environmental policy for the winery and to establish an EMS; and Develop mechanisms for frequent internal control and reporting of the winery's environmental performance, including the operation of the new treatment plant. More generally, the project would: Conduct an analysis of the European and Cypriot wine industries, as well as of EU and local statutory provisions relating to the operation of wineries, and identify good practice examples; Conduct an environmental study for wineries in Cyprus; Develop a good practice guide for the improvement of the environmental performance of wineries, and specifications for treatment plants to be disseminated to a number of stakeholders, including wineries, wastewater engineering companies, environmental consultants and public authorities; Disseminate its results through a newsletter, relevant publications, guided tours, workshops and technical conferences.Results The WINEC project successfully met its objectives and implemented all the planned actions. For the biological treatment of the winery wastewater the application of a membrane technology, widely known as Membrane BioReactor (MBR), was chosen. The MBR design was developed by S.K. Euromarket Ltd and the sizing took into account both the characteristics of wastewater and the hydraulic load, and the substantial fluctuations in the flow. For the control of the correct operation of the WWWT plant, sample testing is frequently conducted from both the inlet and outlet of the biological membrane bioreactor treatment plant by the research team of the University of Cyprus in cooperation with the manufacturer. The advanced chemical oxidation is based on the production of highly reactive oxidants, in order to remove the most harmful and toxic compounds. In order to proceed with the design of the winery wastewater treatment plant for Tsiakkas Winery, the research teams of GAIA-Laboratory of Environmental Engineering of the University of Cyprus and Technical University of Crete, performed a bench scale assessment of various parameters including DOC, COD, BOD and polyphenols. Degradation kinetics were also investigated. Experiments took place in order to identify the most efficient Advanced Oxidation Process between the solar Fenton and solar Fenton-like processes for the advanced wastewater treatment of the winery effluent. In relation to the continuation of the experimental work at the laboratories of both universities, two prototype solar photocatalytic reactors and one photocatalytic plant were constructed. Tests were performed on the two prototype solar photocatalytic reactors to ensure optimum operating conditions for the maximum degradation of organic load of the treated water. The laboratory results and the pilot results at the Tsiakkas winery showed the solar-Fenton oxidation process was the more efficient. For example, starting with an organic content of c. 5 000mg/ litre (before treatment), the COD (chemical oxygen demand) of the wastewater has been reduced to 100 mg/ litre using the membrane bioreactor at the winery; and further reduced to almost zero (20 mg/ litre) with the solar reactor. Due to the fact, that winery wastewater could be discharged to the environment mainly for irrigation purposes, toxicity tests were performed on D. magna which is an aquatic organism and on three different plant species (Sinapis alba, Lepidium sativum and Sorghum saccharatum). The solar Fenton treatment significantly reduced the toxicity to D. magna to zero, as well as, the seed germination, the shoot and root growth inhibition for all three plant species at values lower than 7.5%, at the end of treatment. The use of advanced homogeneous photocatalysis using solar light at an industrial scale, as subsequent processing of the biological treatment with membranes, provides almost complete removal of the organic load. At the same time the reduction of toxicity (i.e. mortality of freshwater microorganisms), and phytotoxicity (i.e. effect on germination, root and shoot growth) of the final effluent was evident. Coupled with the EMS developed for the winery by the project and the EMAS-Easy certification achieved, Tsiakkas winery is today recognised as an exemplary winery not only for Cyprus, but also for Europe: it is the first winery in Cyprus and the seventh in Europe to be EMAS certified. Importantly, the implementation of the EMS had an impact on the minimisation of solid waste disposal and maximisation of the reuse potential. It also reduces electricity, fuel, and water consumption, emissions and discharges to the environment, packaging waste production and chemicals used. Moreover the increased employee awareness of environmental issues has provided the winery with the ability to effectively monitor its operations in order to identify which areas need to be further improved towards the reduction of their environmental impacts. The project also demonstrated the wastewater treatment process to authorities as well as other wineries and food processing industries. These end users have also participated in the project’s dissemination activities (guided tours, a workshop and final conference) and were informed about the technical specifications, the operation and the efficiency of the new process (MBR + solar oxidation). Another main output was a best practice guide (in Greek and English), as well as a technical specifications manual for the dissemination and potential replication of the project's results in other wineries. The guide provides information to wine industry owners on key environmental issues, such as: the replacement of the carbon dioxide with nitrogen in the bottling process; saving energy and water; management/collection/recycling of solid waste; management and treatment of wastewater; proper use of chemicals; and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the activities of the winery. Finally, the project's results were presented at a final conference attended by a target audience from the winery and olive oil sectors as well as relevant services and authorities. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).
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