Coffee beans processing generates a large volume of wastewater composed of trace elements which can be detrimental to human health. The present study aimed at evaluating the capacity of strains of Aspergillus brasiliensis and Penicillium citrinum in tolerating and removing trace elements namely: Cu, Mn and Zn from coffee wastewater. The use of fungi in the treatment of polluted wastewater has emerged as a viable alternative to conventional treatment. The fungi were isolated from polluted and unpolluted areas, which were tested on a laboratorial scale and on large scale (aerobic bioreactor) with immobilized biomass. As expected, the strains isolated from polluted areas (P. citrinum EPAMIG 0086 and A. brasiliensis EPAMIG 0084) were more tolerant to the elements studied than the strains isolated from unpolluted areas (A. brasiliensis IBT 26433 and P. citrinum INCQS 40011). As for the removal tests conducted on a laboratorial scale, it is worth mentioning that the fungal strains under study responded differently to the tested elements (regardless of their origin). In the tests conducted in bioreactors, the fungus P. citrinum EPAMIG 0086 presented a greater removal capacity of the elements in aerobic biofilters (44, 62 and 48% for Cu, Mn and Zn, respectively) than the A. brasiliensis EPAMIG 0084 (21.7, 51 and 41.6%, respectively), which indicates that this fungus is an efficient alternative to conventional treatments.
Key words: Coffee wastewater, bioreactors, fungi, immobilization, removal, trace elements.
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