The PERBIOF project started in 2005 and ended in 2008, with the aim to further develop the wastewater treatment technology from the FP6 project INNOWATECH into a demonstrative scale. Thus, the two parallel projects built on and contributed to each other’s results. Being “A new technology for treating municipal and/or industrial wastewater with low environmental impact”, this PERiodic BIOFilter and technology aimed at treating municipal and/or industrial wastewater through an innovative bio filtrating technology. Being one of the most common damage-reducing techniques for water and wastewater treatment achievement but also producing a large amount of sludge, biological treatment could potentially be made more efficient.

The project was coordinated by The Water Research institute (IRSA) of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) in partnership with one of the largest multi-utility companies in Italy, IRIDE Acqua Gas SpA, and the université de Savoie. The total project budget was 624 800 Euro, including support from the LIFE programme (LIFE05 ENV). The company and the university collaborated in designing and constructing a prototype of the technology: A 3m-high, 1m-diameter cylindrical zinc-plated steel reactor. The filtrating biological mass is placed in the reactor, which also contains pumps, air supply and a motorized valve for drawing operations. A programmable logic controller (PLC) is controlling and monitoring the system.

As industrial wastewater often contains elements that are resistant to biological treatments, a secondary reactor was added to the prototype in order to achieve sufficient cleaning. In this reactor the biologically treated wastewater is chemically treated with ozone to make recalcitrant compounds biodegradable.  The wastewater is extracted from the first reactor into the chemical oxidation unit using a pump equipped with an injector dosing the ozone. The ozone in the process is created through an ozone generator and excess ozone is later destroyed to prevent emissions. The ozonated wastewater is treated once again in the biological reactor to fulfill the treatment process and to completely purify the water.

The prototype was tested in two case studies evaluating the technology effectiveness and cost-benefit ratio. In the first study, municipal wastewater was treated in the plant of Bari, a town located in southern Italy. In the second, primary effluent from one of Italy’s largest tannery wastewater treatment plants was treated. The outcomes of these tests show that the demonstrated technology reduces reactor volumes, sludge production, operative costs and environmental impact compared to conventional technologies. To be more exact, the results include a reduction in sludge production of up to 90%; a 50% reduction in treated effluent toxicity; an 80% reduction in area required (footprint); a 40% saving in operating costs; a 70% reduction in overall environmental impact (resource use); and a 90% reduction in global warming contributions. The project received the European Commission award for “Best Life Environment Projects” projects in 2009.


European Commission, DG Environment (2010). Best LIFE Environment Projects 2009. Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2010.

PERBIOF Project. Laymans report.