Chemical Characterization of Tomato Industry Wastewater, Florida, United States


Tomato packers often struggle to find ways to reuse the large volumes of wastewater generated during the tomato cleaning and sanitizing processes due to high transportation costs for off-site disposal and strict surface water discharge regulations in Florida. Information about the composition of tomato packinghouse wastewater and the likely sources of major wastewater constituents might provide insights to develop environmentally sustainable practices for wastewater reuse. The objective of this study was to characterize the chemical composition of wastewater generated in tomato packinghouses. The wastewater samples were collected for 6 to 8 hours from dump tanks of two representative packinghouses at 30 minute intervals after start-up of packing operations during May-June 2009. Results showed that wastewater had high electrical conductivity (1.3 - 2.8 dS·m–1) and chloride (255 - 1125 mg·L–1) due to the use of chlorine as a sanitizer in the packinghouses. Concentrations of total phosphorus (P, 2.8 - 5.7 mg·L–1) and copper (Cu, 1.9 - 2.2 mg·L–1) in wastewater were elevated due to tomato cleaning and sanitizing. To reduce P and Cu concentrations, treatment or blending of wastewater may be needed before discharging wastewater to surface waters. Concentrations of P, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and manganese were much higher in packinghouse 1 as compared to packinghouse 2 wastewater, probably due to the greater contact time of tomatoes with the dump tank water. Whereas concentrations of Cu were similar in both packinghouses wastewater. Greater concentrations of chemical constituents in the wastewater suggest that residues of pesticides, insecticides, and/or foliar-applied micronutrients on tomatoes may be the likely external sources of most constituents (especially P, Cu, and Zn) in wastewater.

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M. Chahal, G. Toor and B. Santos, "Chemical Characterization of Tomato Industry Wastewater, Florida, United States," Journal of Water Resource and Protection, Vol. 4 No. 3, 2012, pp. 107-114. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2012.43013.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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