Investigation of endogenous biomass efficiency in the treatment of unhairing effluents from the tanning industry

Najwa Mlaik, Jalel Bouzid, Neji Gharsallah, Lassad Belbahri, Stephen Woodward, Tahar Mechichi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The tanning industry is of great economic importance worldwide; however, the potential environmental impact of tanning is significant. An important component in tanning is the removal of hair from the hide (unhairing), a process which generates considerable amounts of toxic effluent characterized by a high concentration of sulphur, rich mineral compounds, a high alkalinity and a high organic load. The purpose of the work described here was to evaluate the biodegradability of the unhairing wastewater by endogenous biomass in batch culture and continuous systems. The detoxification of the effluent was assessed by seed germination tests. The batch culture experiments showed that variations in COD, temperature and pH significantly affected the endogenous biomass growth and activity. The optimal treatment condition corresponded to an initial COD of 6 g/L, pH of 7 and 30 degrees C. Under continuous culture conditions, the reactor was fed for 48 days with the unhairing effluent. The optimal COD removal efficiency was 85.5%. During treatment, a transformation of sulphides into thiosulphates and then sulphates was also observed. The effect of untreated and treated unhairing wastewater on seed germination of different plant species was studied. The data suggested that treatment decreased the wastewater toxicity. Indeed, germination was inhibited when the effluent dilution was lower than 20% and 10% for treated and untreated wastewater, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911-919
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number9
Early online date6 Aug 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • tanning industry
  • unhairing effluent
  • biological treatment
  • endogenous biomass
  • sulphide oxidation
  • germination index
  • tannery waste-water
  • separated streams
  • oxidation
  • removal
  • sulfide
  • germination
  • toxicity


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