Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, 229:381 | Cite as

Influence of Anaerobic Digestion with Pretreatment on the Phytotoxicity of Sewage Sludge

  • M. Venegas
  • A. M. Leiva
  • Gladys VidalEmail author


The aim of this study is to evaluate the influence of anaerobic digestion with pretreatment on the phytotoxicity of sewage sludge. The phytotoxicity was evaluated on sewage sludge (SS) and biosolids that came from conventional anaerobic digestion (CAD) and anaerobic digestion with a pretreatment by sequential ultrasound and low-thermal hydrolysis, called advance anaerobic digestion (AAD). To compare the phytotoxicity, eight elutriate concentrations (0.5–100% v/v) from SS, CAD, and AAD were studied on three testing plants: Lactuca sativa, Raphanus sativus, and Triticum aestivum. The percentages of seed germination inhibition, root elongation, and germination index (GI) were evaluated. GI is an phytotoxicity indicator that combines seed germination and root growth, therefore reflecting a more complete estimation of toxicity. Phytotoxicity assays showed that SS, CAD, and AAD elutriates have a beneficial effect on R. sativus. Similar results were observed for T. aestivum for CAD and AAD, with GI values up to 80% in both biosolids. Only for SS, moderate toxicity was observed in T. aestivum. Moreover, L. sativa showed GI values below 50% for SS and CAD, which reflected high toxicity. Only for AAD, no presence of phytotoxic substances was observed in L. sativa. This study concluded that biosolids from AAD improved the plants’ development with a GI above 78% with respect to biosolids from SS and CAD and reduced the phytotoxicity of sewage biosolid.


Phytotoxicity Biosolid Anaerobic digestion Pretreatment Sewage sludge 



This work was supported by CONICYT/FONDAP/15130015. M. Venegas thanks CONICYT for her Scholarship Program CONICYT-PCHA/Doctorado Nacional/2016-21160100, for supporting her Ph.D. studies at the University of Concepción.


  1. Alvarenga, P., Mourinha, C., Farto, M., Palma, P., Sengo, J., Morais, M. C., et al. (2016). Ecotoxicological assessment of the potential impact on soil porewater, surface and groundwater from the use of organic wastes as soil amendments. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 126, 102–110. Scholar
  2. APHA, American Public Health Association. (2012). Standard methods for examination of water and wastewater (22nd ed.). Washington: American Public Health Association.Google Scholar
  3. Banks, M. K., & Schultz, K. E. (2005). Comparison of plants for germination toxicity tests in petroleum-contaminated soils. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 167(1–4), 211–219. Scholar
  4. Carballa, M., Omil, F., & Lema, J. M. (2009). Influence of different pretreatments on anaerobically digested sludge characteristics: suitability for final disposal. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 199(1–4), 311–321. Scholar
  5. Carvajal, A., Peña, M., & Pérez-Elvira, S. (2013). Autohydrolysis pretreatment of secondary sludge for anaerobic digestion. Biochemical Engineering Journal, 75, 21–31. Scholar
  6. Chile Government. (2010). Supreme Decree N°4: Regulation for the management of sudges generated in sewage treatment plants (p. 20). Ministry of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic, CONAMA..Google Scholar
  7. Chipasa, K. B. (2003). Accumulation and fate of selected heavy metals in a biological wastewater treatment system. Waste Management, 23(2), 135–143. Scholar
  8. Council of the European Union. (1986). Directive 86/278/EEC: Council Directive of 12 June 1986 on the protection of the environment, and in particular of the soil, when sewage sludge is used in agriculture. Official Journal of the European Communities, 181(1986), 0006–0012.Google Scholar
  9. Da Ros, C., Libralato, G., Ghirardini, A. V., Radaelli, M., & Cavinato, C. (2018). Assessing the potential phytotoxicity of digestate from winery wastes. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 150, 26–33. Scholar
  10. Dhar, B. R., Nakhla, G., & Ray, M. B. (2012). Techno-economic evaluation of ultrasound and thermal pretreatments for enhanced anaerobic digestion of municipal waste activated sludge. Waste Management, 32(3), 542–549. Scholar
  11. Fuentes, A., Lloréns, M., Sáez, J., Aguilar, M. I., Ortuño, J. F., & Meseguer, V. F. (2004). Phytotoxicity and heavy metals speciation of stabilised sewage sludges. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 108(3), 161–169. Scholar
  12. Fuentes, A., Lloréns, M., Sáez, J., Aguilar, M. I., Pérez-Marín, A. B., Ortuño, J. F., et al. (2006). Ecotoxicity, phytotoxicity and extractability of heavy metals from different stabilised sewage sludges. Environmental Pollution, 143(2), 355–360. Scholar
  13. Gerber, M. D., Lucia, T., Correa, L., Neto, J. E. P., & Correa, É. K. (2017). Phytotoxicity of effluents from swine slaughterhouses using lettuce and cucumber seeds as bioindicators. Science of the Total Environment, 592, 86–90. Scholar
  14. Li, S. X., Wang, Z. H., & Stewart, B. A. (2013). Responses of crop plants to ammonium and nitrate N. In Academic Press (Ed.), Advances in agronomy (pp. 205–397). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  15. Neumann, P., Pesante, S., Venegas, M., & Vidal, G. (2016). Developments in pre-treatment methods to improve anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge. Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology, 15(2), 173–211. Scholar
  16. Neumann, P., González, Z., & Vidal, G. (2017). Sequential ultrasound and low-temperature thermal pretreatment: process optimization and influence on sewage sludge solubilization, enzyme activity and anaerobic digestion. Bioresource Technology, 234, 178–187. Scholar
  17. Neumann, P., Barriga, F., Álvarez, C., González, Z., & Vidal, G. (2018). Process performance assessment of advanced anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge including sequential ultrasound-thermal (55°C) pre-treatment. Bioresource Technology, 262, 42–51. Scholar
  18. OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) (2006). Test No. 208: terrestrial plant test: seedling emergence and seedling growth test, OECD guidelines for the testing of Chemicals, Section 2. Paris: OECD Publishing.
  19. Oleszczuk, P. (2008). Phytotoxicity of municipal sewage sludge composts related to physico-chemical properties, PAHs and heavy metals. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 69(3), 496–505. Scholar
  20. Oleszczuk, P. (2010). Testing of different plants to determine influence of physico-chemical properties and contaminants content on municipal sewage sludges phytotoxicity. Environmental Toxicology, 25(1), 38–47.
  21. Oleszczuk, P., & Hollert, H. (2011). Comparison of sewage sludge toxicity to plants and invertebrates in three different soils. Chemosphere, 83(4), 502–509. Scholar
  22. Pandard, P., Devillers, J., Charissou, A. M., Poulsen, V., Jourdain, M. J., Férard, et al. (2006). Selecting a battery of bioassays for ecotoxicological characterization of wastes. Science of the Total Environment, 363(1–3), 114–125,
  23. Petersen, S. O., Petersen, J., & Rubaek, G. H. (2003). Dynamics and plant uptake of nitrogen and phosphorus in soil amended with sewage sludge. Applied Soil Ecology, 24(2), 187–195. Scholar
  24. 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(15), 7168–7175. Scholar
  25. Rodriguez-Rodriguez, C. E., Jelić, A., Llorca, M., Farré, M., Caminal, G., Petrović, M., & Vicent, T. (2011). Solid-phase treatment with the fungus Trametes versicolor substantially reduces pharmaceutical concentrations and toxicity from sewage sludge. Bioresource Technology, 102(10), 5602–5608. Scholar
  26. Roig, N., Sierra, J., Nadal, M., Martí, E., Navalón-Madrigal, P., Schuhmacher, M., & Domingo, J. L. (2012). Relationship between pollutant content and ecotoxicity of sewage sludges from Spanish wastewater treatment plants. Science of the Total Environment, 425, 99–109. Scholar
  27. Smith, M. T. E., & Tibbett, M. (2004). Nitrogen dynamics under Lolium perenne after a single application of three different sewage sludge types from the same treatment stream. Bioresource Technology, 91(3), 233–241. Scholar
  28. Stiborova, H., Kolar, M., Vrkoslavova, J., Pulkrabova, J., Hajslova, J., Demnerova, K., & Uhlik, O. (2017). Linking toxicity profiles to pollutants in sludge and sediments. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 321, 672–680. Scholar
  29. Tabatabaei, S. J., Fatemi, L. S., & Fallahi, E. (2006). Effect of ammonium: nitrate ratio on yield, calcium concentration, and photosynthesis rate in strawberry. Journal of Plant Nutrition, 29(7), 1273–1285. Scholar
  30. Tiquia, S. M., Tam, N. F. Y., & Hodgkiss, I. J. (1996). Effects of composting on phytotoxicity of spent pig-manure sawdust litter. Environmental Pollution, 93(3), 249–256. Scholar
  31. Walter, I., Martínez, F., & Cala, V. (2006). Heavy metal speciation and phytotoxic effects of three representative sewage sludges for agricultural uses. Environmental Pollution, 139(3), 507–514. Scholar
  32. Wilke, B.-M., Riepert, F., Koch, C., & Kühne, T. (2008). Ecotoxicological characterization of hazardous wastes. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 70(2), 283–293. Scholar
  33. Yang, Y., Zhang, Y., Li, Y., Zhao, H., & Peng, H. (2018). Nitrogen removal during anaerobic digestion of wasted activated sludge under supplementing Fe (III) compounds. Chemical Engineering Journal, 332, 711–716. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Engineering & Biotechnology Group, Environmental Science Faculty & EULA-CHILE CenterUniversidad de ConcepciónConcepciónChile

Personalised recommendations