Feb 24, 2014 | 23:06
Jordan has 128 olive presses spread across the country, according to a study prepared by the USAID-funded Jordan Institutional Support and Strengthening Programme (JT file photo)

AMMAN — Although Jordan ranks as the eighth largest olive oil producing country in the world, it still lacks proper facilities for the treatment of zibar, an oily waste generated during the olive oil extraction process, according to a study.

Jordan has more than 15 million olive trees that produce over 130,000 tonnes of olives, 85 per cent of which farmers send to the 128 olive presses spread across the country, the study indicated.

Seventy per cent of the mills are located in the northern region, 22 per cent in the central region and 8 per cent in the south.

The majority of olive presses and tankers that transport zibar illegally dispose of it in wadis, sewers or at the sewage dumpsite in the capital’s Ain Ghazal Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Olive Mills Wastewater (zibar) Study revealed.

The Environment Ministry has designated three dumpsites for the disposal of zibar: Ikeider in the north, Al Humra in the central region and Allajun in the south.

“None of these dumpsites have lined evaporation ponds and subsequently are not equipped with proper mitigation measures to prevent the environmental impacts of zibar disposal,” said the study, which was prepared by the USAID-funded Jordan Institutional Support and Strengthening Programme.

In 2012, the country’s olive mills produced 212,418 cubic metres of zibar, which resulted from the processing of 115,282 tonnes of olives, according to the study, which indicated that almost a third of the zibar was generated in Irbid Governorate, 80km north of Amman.

Zibar is black or reddish black, with a strong offensive smell, a high percentage of fat, oil and grease as well as a high organic load, which is 400 times higher than that of domestic wastewater.

If it spreads on soil or is dumped in wadis, zibar can cause serious environmental problems and reduce soil fertility as it contains many chemicals, the study warned.

The authors of the study presented several recommendations to manage the disposal of zibar, including the establishment of an olive oil wastewater treatment plant and evaporation ponds to serve all the presses across the country.

“The evaporation ponds can be established as part of an already existing dumpsite or a wastewater treatment plant, depending on the geographical location, technical suitability, land suitability and available land,” the study proposed.

Olive mills operate during the harvest season which extends over a 75-day period between mid-October and mid-January, according to the study.

It also indicated that the month of December witnesses the maximum zibar generation due to the rise in olive oil production.