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Characterization of abattoir wastewater of Kigali, Rwanda

D. Muhirwaa *, I. Nhapia, J.B. Rulindab

Faculty of Applied Sciences, National University of Rwanda, Box 117, Butare, Rwanda.
Faculty of Sciences, National University of Rwanda, Box 117, Butare, Rwanda.


The rapid pace and scale of urbanization in Rwanda represents a considerable challenge for water resources
management particularly the delivery of essential water, sanitation services and environmental protection.
In the last ten years, the city of Kigali has experienced a spectacular growth in population leading to large
volumes of domestic and industrial wastes. The effluents from abattoir in Kigali contribute to the organic
and nutrient loads in the downstream rivers leading to eutrophication. Currently there seems to be neither
sufficient measures nor facilities to treat abattoir wastewater for environmental safety or to recover usable
energy and material from abattoir by-products.

The main objective of this study was to analyze processes and products at Nyabugogo abattoir in Kigali,
and to investigate how they can be optimized for environmental safety. The capacity of the abattoir is on
average 566 cattle and 1512 goats and sheep slaughtered per week. The effluent characteristics of the
abattoir were analyzed, with emphasis on nutrients, biologically active constituents, and receiving water
impacts. The study focused on establishment of the quantity and quality of different raw materials, by-
products and wastewater streams and assessment of potential impacts of the application of cleaner
production principles in abattoir processes. The samples were collected fortnightly, preserved and analyzed
in each case using Standard Methods. The data were processed for trends and variance using SPSS
computer package. The wastewater parameters analyzed are temperature, salinity, conductivity, turbidity,
dissolved oxygen pH, TSS, TDS, BOD5, COD, FOG, NO3-N, TKN, total phosphorus, chloride, calcium
and total coliforms. Results show that the current effluent quality is not suitable for discharge into the
watercourse. They also show that the application of cleaner production principles would substantially
reduce total wastewater production and also the pollutant load. It is recommended that an anaerobic
treatment facility in combination with cleaner production would render the operation of Nyabugogo
abattoir more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Keywords: abattoir, abattoir effluent, cleaner production, eutrophication, sustainability, wastewater


1. Introduction

The world is increasingly becoming urbanized. Currently about 54% of the world’s
populations live in urban areas, whereas 35 years ago the urbanized population
represented only 37% of the total. By 2025 it is estimated that an extra 2 billion people
will have been added to the urban population, bringing it to 5 billion or over 60% of the
total. Crucially, 95% of this increase is likely to occur in the developing countries and a
significant proportion will end up living in urban slums (Judith, 2006). This growth is
taking place without the corresponding ability of many of these cities to expand public
provision of basic services.

Corresponding author. Tel.: +250 08757091; fax: +250 530210.
E-mail address: muhird@yahoo.fr or mudeogratias@gmail.com (D. Muhirwa)

The rapid pace and scale of urbanization in Rwanda represents a considerable challenge
for water resources management particularly the delivery of essential water, sanitation
services and environmental protection. It is now recognized that there are crucial
interdependencies between water and sanitation provision and the achievement of many
of the Millennium Development Goals and Targets established at the United Nations
Millennium Summit in September 2000.

In the last ten years, the city of Kigali has experienced a spectacular growth in population
leading to large volumes of domestic and industrial wastes such as abattoir wastes. The
key environmental issues associated with abattoir operations are high consumption of
water, the generation of high-strength effluent streams, the energy consumption and the
generation of by-products. For some sites, noise and odor may also be concerns. One of
the abattoirs in Kigali, Nyabugogo Abattoir, discharges its effluent into the Mpazi River,
a tributary of the Nyabugogo River. This contributes to significant levels of biological
oxygen demand (BOD) and other nutrients, resulting in riverbed and stream pollution
leading to eutrophication (Massé et al., 2000). The abattoir uses large quantities of water
and generates equally large quantities of biodegradable wastewater with a high strength,
and complex composition. Currently there is no economical, stable, and efficient, easy-
to-use and operate process to stabilize, deodorize, or recover usable energy from the
Nyabugogo Abattoir effluent. Anaerobic processes that were used in the past are no
longer working and less consideration was given to pollution potential reduction.
The main objective of this study was to analyze abattoir processes and by-products at
Nyamugogo Abattoir, and to investigate how they can be optimized for environmental

2. Characteristics of abattoir wastewater

The nature and composition of abattoir wastewater have been discussed in detail by
Hammer and Jacbson (1970), Issac and Anderson (1974), Massé and Masse (2000) and
Nicholas (2003). The major characteristics are: 1) high organic strength; 2) sufficient
organic biological nutrients; 3) adequate alkalinity; 4) relatively high temperature (20 to
30° C); and 5) free of toxic material. Metzner and Temper (1990) and Nelson and Avijit
(1991) found that abattoir wastewaters with the above characteristics are well suited to
anaerobic treatment and the efficiency in reducing the BOD5 ranged between 60 and
90%. During abattoir processing, blood, fat, manure, urine and meat tissue are lost to the
wastewater streams. As well as contributing to the pollutant load of wastewater, these
pollutants also represent a loss of resources if not recovered.

The pollution potential of meat-processing plants has been estimated at over 1 million
population equivalent in the Netherlands and 3 million in France (Massé et al., 2000, Tritt
and Schuchardt, 1992). Of all the components of the abattoir effluents stream, blood
constitutes the highest pollution load, followed by fat. Blood, one of the major dissolved
pollutants in abattoir wastewater, has the highest COD of any effluent from abattoir
operations. Liquid blood has a COD of about 400,000 mg l-1 and congealed blood has a
COD of about 900,000 mg l-1(Massé et al., 2000), it has BOD of around 375,000 mgl-1

(Tritt and Schuchardt, 1992). Raw blood contributes on average 6 kg of BOD for each
head of cattle with its organic load equivalent estimated to be 0.14 to 0.18 kg of BOD5
per kg. Blood is also high in nutrients, typically 2,400 mgl-1 of nitrogen and 1,500 gl-1of
phosphorus. The COD : BOD5 ratio varies between 1.3 and 2.0 ( Massé and Masse,
2000). Allowing blood and fat into the effluent stream increases the cost of effluent
treatment and represents the loss of valuable product. Every effort should be made to
maximize raw blood and fat collection and subsequent processing into blood meal,
tallow, or other value added alternatives. Abattoir wastewater also contains high
concentration of suspended solids, including pieces of fat, grease, hair, feathers, flesh,
manure, grit, and undigested feed. These insoluble and slowly biodegradable components
represented 50 % of the pollution load in screened (1 mm) slaughterhouse wastewater,
while another 25% originated from colloidal solids (Massé & Masse, 2000). Untreated
effluent may be as high as 8,000 mgl-1 BOD with suspended solids at 800 mgl-1 or
greater. In most abattoirs the paunch are washed out of the rumen which has a BOD5 of
about 50,000 mgl-1, 60 to 80% of which is water soluble, representing a substantial load
on the effluent stream. The wastewater may also have pathogens, including Salmonella
and Shigella bacteria, parasite eggs and amoebic cysts. Abattoir wastewater contains
several million colony forming units (cfu) per 100 ml of total coliform, fecal coliform,
and Streptococcus groups of bacteria. Skin preservation by dry salting is a common
procedure at small abattoirs that are remote from tanning operations and often exports
their hides and skins for tanning. After salting, the hides are hung to dry for a minimum
of five days. The effluent from drying sheds is therefore highly saline, has a very high
BOD and contains high levels of chloride as the applied salt is sodium chloride as
bactericide. Chloride levels may be very high (up to 77,000 mgl-1) from curing and
pickling processes. This may lead to salinity problems, including tree death and
destruction of aquatic fauna in receiving waterbodies Cooking activities greatly increase
the fat and grease concentration in the effluent. If the blood from a single cow carcass is
allowed to discharge directly into a sewer line, the effluent load would be equivalent to
the total sewage produced by 50 people on average day (Massé and Massé, 2000).The
slaughtering of livestock is a significant contributor to the overall environmental load
produced over the life cycle of meat production and consumption. Therefore, the
application of cleaner production in this phase of the life cycle is important.

3. Material and Methods

3. 1 Description of the study area

The Nyabugogo abattoir (Fig. 1) is situated at the northwest of the city of Kigali and
about 100 meters from the main bus station of Nyabugogo. The abattoir is located in in
commercial zone and discharges effluent into the Mpazi river. Adjacent to this area is a
highly populated residential zone whilst other industries discharge downstream of the
abattoir. Besides the diffuse source of pollution from the population, the main point
source polluters of the Mpazi River are Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Kigali
(CHUK), the central prison of Kigali, Muhima police station, hotels and the Nyabugogo
abattoir. The Mpazi River discharges into Nyabugogo River, a tributary of the Nile River.

Figure 1. An aerial view showing the Nyabugogo abattoir and tannery, and Mpazi river passing through
these facilities.

The Nyabugogo abattoir is divided in two parts; one for cattle and other one for the goat
and sheep processing. The abattoir works seven day per week, with activities starting
midnight and finishing around 10.00am. The abattoir uses water, NaOH and different
kinds of detergents for cleaning purpose. A septic tank of 55 m3 treats the wastewater but
the treatment capacity is now too low. No by-product is recovered. Figure 1 presents
process flow chart, byproducts generation of the Nyabugogo abattoir and nine sites of

Input Process step W astes and byproducts outputs

m aterial
M anure,
D elivery and holding of livestock
w ater m ortalities
Stunning and Slaughter Blood,
w ater 2 W astew ater

W astew ater, hides,

w ater H ide rem oval/dehairing/ defeathering feathers, hooves, heads,

O ffal/viscera, paunch
w ater Evisceration 4 m anure, w astew ater
Part of
W astew ater G oat &
Trim m ing and carcass w ashing 3 sheep
w ater Fat and m eat
trim m ings

w ater Boning W astew ater


w ater W astew ater 6

C hilling
C hilling

Packaging A septic tank

(55 m 3 )
Packaging m aterial
C old storage
M pazi river

Figure 2. Abattoir flow chart, by-products and sampling sites

3.2 Sample collection and analysis

The samples were collected fortnightly from 0400hrs – 0500hrs so that they did not
include much water from abattoir cleaning. They were preserved and analysed in each
case using Standard Methods recommended by American Public Health Association
(APHA, 2005). The raw wastewater collected was thus stronger than afternoon composite
samples which would include wash water. The physical parameters analysed were
temperature, pH, electrical conductivity, salinity, turbidity, TDS and TSS using
colorimetric method. The chemical analyses performed are Dissolved Oxygen (DO),
calcium using titration method, soluble COD (SCOD) after filtration on 0.45µm
membrane filter, total COD (TCOD), oil and grease, nitrate- nitrogen, TKN, total
phosphorus, chloride, using colorimetric method. The HACH spectrophotometers
DR2000, DR2400, and DR5000 were used to read the concentrations. For BOD5
analysis, the dissolved oxygen content of liquid was determined by the Winkler’s method
before and after incubation for 5 days at 20ºC. The difference gave the BOD5 of the
sample after allowance has been made for the dilution, if any, of the sample.

To establish the quantity of raw materials, the quantification of cattle butchered per day is
required and the quantity of water used in different processes and operations of abattoir.
The average cattle killed was calculated from the data of cattle slaughtered from July
2006 to July 2007 and the average of water consumption was calculated from a daily
water consumption data of Nyabugogo abattoir of three months (May, June, and July,

The abattoir wastewater generation was examined and information was collected on plant
capacity, waste disposal and water usage. To estimate the wastewater volume, the
surveys were done to measure the quantity of blood lost per head killed in case of cattle,
goat and sheep. The bleeding time was about 7 minutes. For cattle, the average blood loss
per head killed is 8 litters and 12 litres of paunch per head, and 20 litres and 6 litres in
case of goat and sheep. Assuming 100% of water consumed by the abattoir becomes
wastewater, the annual wastewater was estimated. Table 2 presents the quantity of
wastewater produced. The total of wastewater per year was calculated considering
wastewater from cattle, sheep and goat part plus the annual water consumption.

The means of data obtained form counts and physicochemical analysis were compared
using one way analysis of variance (ANOVA) in SPSS package. The coefficient of
correlation between some physicochemical parameters was calculated by Pearson
correlation test. Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05.

4. Results

4.1 Animal slaughter and water consumption

The number of cattle and goats/sheep slaughtered for the period July 2006 to July 2007
averaged 81 and 216 , respectively (Fig. 3). The average water consumption was 69 m3/d
for the period May to July 2007 (Table 1). This gave a rough figure of about 0.8 m3/beast
for cattle.

Animal slaughtered per month from 2006 to 2007

Number of head

4,000 Cattle
2,000 Goats &
1,000 Sheep









Figure 3: Number of animal processed per month from July 2006 to July 2007.

Table 1: Average water consumption of Nyabugogo abattoir

Quantity of water used Average
Month Cattle slaughtered
(m3 ) (m3 /day)
May 2,785 2,278 73.48
June 2,455 2,078 69.26
July 2,089 1,959 63.19
Total 6,315 68.65

4.2 Wastewater quality

Table 2 summarises the results of different waste streams from the Nyabugogo Abattoir.
The current wastewater quality is not suitable for discharge into the watercourse. All the
parameters show high levels of nutrient discharge into the Mpazi River. The abattoir did
not treat its wastewater and the efficiency of a small septic tank of 55 m3, where coarse
SS were supposed to settle and floating fat, was to low.

Table 2. Physicochemical characteristics of various streams of wastewater in and around the Nyabugogo

Parameters Site 1 Site 2 Site 3 Site 4 Site 5 Site 6 Site 7 Site 8 Site 9
23.56 ± 24.26 22.32 ± 25.88 ± 22.94 ± 21.04 20.85 19.88 21.32
T (°C) 0.69 ± 0.54 0.30 0.99 0.28 ± 0.34 ± 0.61 ± 0.45 ± 0.42
7.43 7.75 8.20 7.27 8.15 8.17 7.59 8.95 8.13
pH ± 0.63 ± 0.49 ± 0.58 ± 0.68 ± 0.15 ± 0.09 ± 0.08 ± 0.26 ± 0.15
Sal 4.1 0.62 ± 4.0 1.70 ± 3.54 ± 0.34 ± 1.82 ± 0.54
0.10 ± 0
± .36 0.15 ±0.65 0.09 0.31 0.02 0.11 ± 013
180.38± 6792.4 ± 1890 ± 5646 ± 3137 ± 5761.4 ± 632.2 ± 3199.2 ± 726.0 ±
(µScm-1 )
13.9 1303.8 86.2 707.9 130.7 361.1 33.6 66.2 77.7
TDS ( mgl-1) 100.5 ± 3434.4± 603.04 ± 2657.2 1800.4± 3231± 328.4 ± 1833 ± 358.6 ±
5.8 509.3 149.4 ±472.8 289 200.6 15.2 131.0 10.7
TSS ( mgl-1) 8.7 2452.6± 3492.6 ± 3504.6 4412.3± 5252.06 220 2939.6 304.2
±0.56 51.6 343.1 ±143.3 172.4 ±174.5 ±16.8 ±71.3 ± 34.0
Turbidity 662.4 552.2 707
(NTU) ± 37.0 ± 26.6 ± 37.6
0.053 ± 0.509
D.O ( mgl-1) NA NA NA NA NA NA -
0.11 ± 0.18
Nitrate 3.2 648 208.2 676.6 205.8 ± 702.4 114 224.0 176.6
( mgl-1) ± 0.23 ± 66.1 ± 23.1 ±53.37 23.1 ± 101.4 ± 10.7 ± 37.2 ± 13.3
TKN ( mgl-1)
4.6 756.5 653.40 198.6 299.7 812 97 149 128
TP ( mgl )
2.12 728.7 608.3 482 581 742.86 198.26 416 286.7
Oil & Grease
1 58 56 36 49 61 26 59 31.8
( mgl-1)
Chloride 190.4 ± 113.6 ± 72.4 ± 520.2 ± 275.24 ± 71.54 ± 330.8 ± 130.0 ±
42 ± 5.3
( mgl-1) 8.3 4.6 5.5 27.6 16.6 5.1 14.1 7.7
9.125 412.94 54.205 45.22 216.76 153.625 15.38 362.4 19.34
( mgl-1)
TCOD 30.2 23,778.6 17019.4 7533.8 13126.6 20,271.8 213.8 14,722 852.6
( mgl-1) ± 7.9 ± 1673.8 ± 878.6 ±723.3 ±406.7 ± 1552.8 ± 29.5 ± 811.4 ± 94.22
SCOD 22.2 7260.4 5774.4 1445.2± 5270.6 7001.4 133.2 6100.4 272.2
( mgl-1) ± 4.5 ± 1015.1 ± 806.5 295.3 ±1187.2 ± 727.8 ± 4.2 ± 416.3 ± 24.2
BOD5 ( mgl-
1 18.01 ± 15,773.9 10,989.1 5,018.14 10801.0 12786.2 161.4 13157.1 629.68
3.8 2 ±847.5 8 ± 814 ± 180.7 8±456.2 ± 1230.7 ± 24.2 8± 739.9 ± 27.7

1.67 1.51 1.54 1.50 1.21 1.58 1.32 1.11 1.35
coliforms 0 8 .105 1.105 19.105 28 .105 5.105 2.105 4.107 6.105
• Wastewater generation = 26,120 m3/year
• All values are Mean ± Standard Error of Mean ( SEM),

• cfu : colony forming unit

Table 2 shows that the Nyabugogo abattoir increases the organic pollution of Mpazi river
especially for TCOD and SCOD which were 1,477 mg/l and 475 mg/l respectively before
discharge and 2,342 mg/l and 832 mg/l after discharge. The main contributor of that
organic material is the blood, as it is represented by 23,942 mg/l) found in the
slaughtering process. The nutrients nitrogen and chloride are respectively 130.2 mg/l and
74.2 mg/l before discharge and 165.5 mg/l and 123.6 mg/l after discharge of Nyabugogo
abattoir wastewater. The wastewater from the abattoir increases the concentration of
chloride in Mpazi River, impacting on the final reuse of treated wastewater. The chloride
in the wastewater comes from hide drying where salt is applied, hence it is concentrated
in the site adjacent to the hide drying area. Nitrates are very high in the abattoir
wastewater especially at the evisceration step where the concentration is 721.2 mg/l. The
concentration of nitrates in the abattoir wastewater shows that the wastewater could be
treated by biological processes. The wastewater raised also the total coliforms in Mpazi
River because it contained higher than 107/100 ml and the total coliforms in Mpazi River
increased from 2x105/100 ml to 6x105/ 100ml.

5. Discussion
The linear regression results obtained during the Nyabugogo abattoir wastewater and
Mpazi river analysis are shown in Figs 4 - 9. A linear response was obtained between the
data sets. The fitted equations on the entire dataset on that particular wastewater are
generated with their corresponding correlation coefficients (r and R2).

Correlation beween TDS and Conductivity


TDS ( mg/l)



0 Rsq = 0.9751
0 2000 4000 6000
1000 3000 5000 7000

Conductivity (micro S/cm )

Figure 4. Linear regression of TDS and Conductivity of wastewater


Correlation between Salinity and TDS




TDS (mg/l)




0 Rsq = 0.9467
0 1 2 3 4 5


Figure 5. Linear regression of TDS and Salinity of wastewater

Correlation between Salinity and Condactivity



0 Rsq = 0.9725
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000

Conductivity ( microsiemens/cm)

Figure 6. Linear regression of Salinity and Conductivity of wastewater

Correlation between five day BOD and TCOD

Total Chemical Oxygen Demand (mg/l)





0 Rsq = 0.9534
0 4000 8000 12000 16000
2000 6000 10000 14000 18000

Five day Biochemical Oxygen Demand (mg/l)

Figure 7. Linear regression of total COD and BOD5 of wastewater


Correlation between SCOD and five day BOD


Soluble Chemical Oxygen Demand (mg/l)

0 Rsq = 0.9710
0 5000 10000 15000 20000 25000
2500 7500 12500 17500 22500

Five day Biochemical Oxygen Demand (mg/l)

Figure 8. Linear regression of soluble COD and BOD5 of wastewater

Correlation between TCOD and SCOD

Total Chemical Oxygen Demand (mg/l)





0 Rsq = 0.9378
0 2000 4000 6000 8000
1000 3000 5000 7000 9000

Soluble Chemical Oxygen Demand (mg/l)

Figure 9. Linear regression total COD and soluble COD of Nyabugogo wastewater

The correlation coefficients of the fitted equations between total COD, BOD5 and soluble
COD were generally positive from the results of Nyabugogo abattoir and Mpazi river.
The correlation coefficients were respectively r = 0.977, r = 0.985 and r = 0.968. The
high values of R squared (Rsq), and the significant value in the analysis of variance table
confirm the strong linear relationship that can be seen on the graph. The following can be
1. The COD and the BOD5 for that Nyabugogo abattoir wastewater and Mpazi river
showed that the degree of common variation between the two variables was
highly positive; thus, the COD and the BOD5 are said to be highly correlated and
also significant (p < 0.05).
2. The correlation coefficients of the equations were highly positive (r = 0.977, r =
0.985 and r = 0.968). Hence, they are very strong and indicate a significant
relationship between chemical oxygen demand and a five day biochemical oxygen
3. The TCOD / BOD5 ratio were situated between 1 and 2, thus the organic matter of
that wastewater are highly biodegradable.
The BOD5 and the COD values obtained on the analysis of the effluents of the abattoir
have been found to be higher than the expected from literature. These levels of BOD5 and
COD could constitute potential pollution problems for the Mpazi River since they contain
organic compounds that will require a large quantity of oxygen for degradation. The
COD / BOD5 ratios have been found to be less than 3. This implies that the compound in
the wastewater of the abattoir were relatively degradable, thus, a possible depletion of the

dissolved oxygen in the receiving rivers and a potential effect on aquatic life. The COD
correlates positively with the BOD5 of the wastewater. The correlation equations can be
used to estimate the BOD5 for reporting and treatment process control.

The degree of common variation between the COD and the BOD5 of the abattoir
wastewater from Nyabugogo and Mpazi river was highly positive, the strength or
magnitude of the relationship are represented by the high values of the R2 and the
significance of the correlation. The correlation coefficient of the fitted equation for the
prediction for Nyabugogo abattoir and Mpazi River may, therefore, be used to facilitate
rapid wastewater quality assessment or optimal process control by the abattoir once the
chemical oxygen demand (COD) is measured or vice versa.

3. Conclusion
This study shows that the effluent from Nyamugogo abattoir is highly loaded with
contaminants that pause an environmental risk to the receiving Mpazi River. It also
shows that some parameters could be used to deduce the levels of others through certain
relationships. This could greatly reduce the cost of analysis. The combination of available
technology as well as local effluent regulations could be used to motivate Nyabugogo
abattoir authorities to maintain a state-of-the-art facility which will not only be safe for
environment and workers, but cost effective as well.


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