The Environmentalist

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 409–420 | Cite as

Sewage treatment by vermifiltration with synchronous treatment of sludge by earthworms: a low-cost sustainable technology over conventional systems with potential for decentralization

Article

Abstract

Earthworms’ body works as a ‘biofilter’ and they have been found to remove the 5 days’ BOD (BOD5) by over 90%, COD by 80–90%, total dissolved solids (TDS) by 90–92%, and the total suspended solids (TSS) by 90–95% from wastewater by the general mechanism of ‘ingestion’ and biodegradation of organic wastes, heavy metals, and solids from wastewater and also by their ‘absorption’ through body walls. Earthworms increase the hydraulic conductivity and natural aeration by granulating the clay particles. They also grind the silt and sand particles, increasing the total specific surface area, which enhances the ability to ‘adsorb’ the organics and inorganic from the wastewater. Intensification of soil processes and aeration by the earthworms enable the soil stabilization and filtration system to become effective and smaller in size. Suspended solids are trapped on top of the vermifilter and processed by earthworms and fed to the soil microbes immobilized in the vermifilter. There is no sludge formation in the process which requires additional expenditure on landfill disposal. This is also an odor-free process and the resulting vermifiltered water is clean and disinfected enough to be reused for farm irrigation and in parks and gardens

Keywords

Vermifiltration Vermifilter bed Biofilter Stimulate microbial degradation Odor-free process Synchronous sludge treatment Hydraulic retention time Hydraulic loading rate Biological oxygen demand Chemical oxygen demand Total dissolved and suspended solids 

References

  1. ARRPET (2005) Vermicomposting as an eco-tool in sustainable solid waste management. The Asian Regional Research Program on Environmental Technology, Asian Institute of Technology, Anna University, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  2. Bajsa O, Nair J, Mathew K, Ho GE (2003) Vermiculture as a tool for domestic wastewater management. Water science and technology. vol 48, no 11–12. IWA Publishing, pp 125–132 (Viewed on 5th May 2006. www.iwaponline.com/wst/04811/wst048110125.htm
  3. Bharambe G (2006) Vermifiltration of wastewater from food processing industries (brewery and milk dairy) in Brisbane. 20 CP project submitted for the partial fulfillment of the degree of Master in Environmental Engineering, School of Environmental Engineering, Griffith University, Brisbane, June 2006 (Supervisor Dr. Rajiv K. Sinha)Google Scholar
  4. Bhawalkar U (1995) Vermiculture eco-technology. Pub. of Bhawalkar Earthworm Research Institute (BERI), Pune, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  5. Binet F, Fayolle L, Pussard M (1998) Significance of earthworms in stimulating soil microbial activity. Biol Fertil Soils 27:79–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chaudhari U (2006) Vermifiltration of municipal wastewater (sewage) in Brisbane. 20 CP Project submitted for the partial fulfillment of the degree of Master in Environmental Engineering, School of Environmental Engineering, Griffith University, Brisbane, June 2006 (Supervisor Dr. Rajiv K. Sinha)Google Scholar
  7. Darwin F, Seward AC (1903) More letters of Charles Darwin. A record of his work in series of hitherto unpublished letters, vol 2. John Murray, London, 508 ppGoogle Scholar
  8. Dash MC (1978) Role of earthworms in the decomposer system. In: Singh JS, Gopal B (eds) Glimpses of ecology. India International Scientific Publication, New Delhi, 399–406Google Scholar
  9. Edwards CA, Fletcher KE (1988) Interaction between earthworms and microorganisms in organic matter breakdown. Agri Ecosyst Environ 24:235–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fraser-Quick G (2002) Vermiculture––a sustainable total waste management solution. What’s New Waste Manag 4(6):13–16Google Scholar
  11. Gardner T, Geary P, Gordon I (1997) Ecological sustainability and on-site effluent treatment systems. Aust J Environ Manage 4:144–156Google Scholar
  12. Gerard BM (1960) The biology of certain British earthworms in relation to environmental conditions, Ph.D. Thesis, University of LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Graff O (1981) Preliminary experiment of vermicomposting of different waste materials using Eudrilus eugeniae Kingberg. In: Appelhof M (ed) Proceedings of the workshop on ‘role of earthworms in the stabilization of organic residues’. Malanazoo Pub. Michigan, USA 179–191Google Scholar
  14. Gunathilagraj K (1996) Earthworm: an introduction. Indian council of agricultural research training program; Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, CoimbatoreGoogle Scholar
  15. Hand P (1988) Earthworm biotechnology. In: Greenshields R (ed) Resources and application of biotechnology: the new wave. MacMillan Press Ltd, USGoogle Scholar
  16. Hartenstein R, Bisesi MS (1989) Use of earthworm biotechnology for the management of effluents from intensively housed livestock. Outlook Agriculture, vol 18. USA, pp 72–76Google Scholar
  17. Hughes RJ, Nair J, Mathew K (2005) The implications of wastewater vermicomposting technologies: on-site treatment systems for sustainable sanitation. WAMDEC conference, Zimbabwe, July 27–30Google Scholar
  18. Hughes RJ, Nair J, Mathew K, Ho G (2007) Toxicity of domestic wastewater pH to key earthworm species within an innovative decentralised vermifiltration system. Water Sci Technol 55(7):211–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ireland MP (1983) Heavy metals uptake in earthworms; earthworm ecology. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  20. Kerr M, Stewart AJ (2006) Tolerance test of Elsenia fetida for sodium chloride. US Department of Energy Journal of Undergraduate Research (http://www.scied.science.doe.gov)
  21. Komarowski S (2001) Vermiculture for sewage and water treatment sludges. Water, Publication of Australian Water and Wastewater Association, July, pp 39–43Google Scholar
  22. Markman S, Guschinna IA, Barnsleya S, Buchanana KL, Pascoea D, Mullera CT (2007) Endocrine disrupting chemicals accumulate in earthworms exposed to sewage effluents. Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK. J Chemosphere 70(1):119–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Martin JP (1976) Darwin on earthworms: the formation of vegetable moulds. Bookworm Publishing, ISBN 0-916302-06-7Google Scholar
  24. Morgan M, Burrows I (1982) Earthworms/microorganisms interactions. Rothamsted Exp. Stn. RepGoogle Scholar
  25. OECD (2000) Guidelines for testing organic chemicals. Proposal for new guidelines: earthworms reproduction tests (E. fetida andrei). Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (www.oecd.org)
  26. Pierre V, Phillip R, Margnerite L, Pierrette C (1982) Anti-bacterial activity of the haemolytic system from the earthworms Eisinia foetida andrei. Invertebrate Pathology 40:21–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Roots BI (1956) The water relation of earthworms; ii. resistance to desiccation & emersion and behavior when submerged and when allowed a choice of environment. J Exper Biol 33:29–44Google Scholar
  28. Safawat H, Hanna S, Weaver RW (2002) Earthworms survival in oil contaminated soil. J Plant and Soil 240:127–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Satchell JE (1983) Earthworm ecology- from darwin to vermiculture. Chapman and Hall Ltd., London pp 1–5Google Scholar
  30. Singleton DR, Hendrix BF, Coleman DC, Whitemann WB (2003) Identification of uncultured bacteria tightly associated with the intestine of the earthworms Lumricus rubellus. Soil Bio Biochem 35:1547–1555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sinha RK, Bharambe G (2007) Removal of high BOD and COD loadings of primary liquid waste products from dairy industry by vermifiltration technology using earthworms; Ind J Enviro Prot (IJEP) 27(6):486–501; ISSN 0253-7141; Regd. No. R.N. 40280/83; Indian Institute of Technology, BHU, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  32. Sinha RK, Heart S, Agarwal S, Asadi R, Carretero E (2002) Vermiculture technology for environmental management: study of the action of the earthworms Eisinia foetida, Eudrilus euginae and Perionyx excavatus on biodegradation of some community wastes in India and Australia. The Environmentalist 22(2):261–268Google Scholar
  33. Sinha RK, Nair J, Bharambe G, Patil S, Bapat P (2007) Vermiculture revolution: a low-cost & sustainable technology for management of municipal & industrial organic wastes (solid & liquid) by earthworms. Invited Paper by NOVA Science Publishers, NY, USA (Edited book: Waste management: research development & policy)Google Scholar
  34. Taylor et al (2003) The treatment of domestic wastewater using small-scale vermicompost filter beds. Ecol Eng 21:197–203Google Scholar
  35. UNSW ROU (2002) Best practice guidelines to managing on-site vermiculture technologies. University of New South Wales Recycling Organics Unit, Sydney, NSW, Australia (Viewed on December 2004 www.resource.nsw.gov.au/data/Vermiculture%20BPG.pdf
  36. Xing M, Yang J, Lu Z (2005) Microorganism-earthworm integrated biological treatment process––a sewage treatment option for rural settlements. ICID 21st European regional conference, 15–19 May 2005, Frankfurt; Viewed on 18 April 2006. www.zalf.de/icid/ICID_ERC2005/HTML/ERC2005PDF/Topic_1/Xing.pdf

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rajiv K. Sinha
    • 1
  • Gokul Bharambe
    • 1
  • Uday Chaudhari
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Engineering (Environment)Griffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations