Toxic effects of digested, composted and thermally-dried sewage sludge on three plants

Ramírez W.A., Domene X., Ortiz O., Alcañiz J.M. (2008) Toxic effects of digested, composted and thermally-dried sewage sludge on three plants. Bioresource Technology. 99: 7168-7175.
Doi: 10.1016/j.biortech.2007.12.072


In order to evaluate potential toxic effects of stabilized sewage sludge that are currently applied to agricultural soils, three types of municipal sewage sludge and one pig slurry were subjected to phytotoxicity assays using three plants (Brassica rapa, Lolium perenne and Trifolium pratense). Equivalent batches of aerobically and anaerobically-digested sludge (F) from two municipal wastewater treatment plants, were composted (C) or thermally dried (T). In addition, one anaerobically-digested and thermally-dried pig slurry (P) was tested. A seedling growth test was performed in accordance with the OECD Guideline 208A, using seed emergence and shoot length as endpoints to identify the inhibition of plants growing in increasing doses of sludge. A correlation analysis between EC50 and physico-chemical parameters or the pollutant burden of the biosolids was also calculated. In all tests, lower germination rates were observed for T. pratense than for L. perenne and B. rapa. A moderate stimulatory effect on shoot length at low doses was observed for the three plants. In these wastes, a strong positive correlation was found between higher values of EC50 (less toxicity) and the stability degree of their organic matter, and a negative correlation between EC50 and total N, hydrolysable N or NH4-N content. No correlations were found with heavy metal or organic pollutant content in those wastes. Results indicate that digested sludge, thermally-dried sludge and thermally-dried pig slurry have non-negligible short term phytotoxic effects, and confirm that composting is an effective sludge treatment for the reduction of phytotoxicity. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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