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Long-term, low technicality sewage sludge amendment and irrigation with treated wastewater under Mediterranean climate: impact on agronomical soil quality

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We evaluated the agronomic quality of loam to clay–loam soils from a Mediterranean area, which have been submitted for more than 10 years to irregular and poorly controlled treated wastewater (TWW) irrigation and sewage sludge (SS) amendment, both TWW and SS issuing from a domestic effluent treatment plant. A soil was submitted to SS amendment only, another to TWW irrigation only, another to both treatments, and another was not submitted to any of these treatments. We found that the agronomic quality of the treated soils has not decreased. In treated soils, it was observed a slight increase of pH, an increase of the cation exchange capacity, and no change of either salinity or electrical conductivity. Sodium adsorption ratio and exchangeable sodium percentage remained satisfactory, below 13 and 15, respectively, and no infiltration problems were observed, indicating that rainwater percolation was sufficient to leach the salt brought by SS or TWW. The soil organic matter (SOM) increased in all SS-amended and/or TWW-irrigated soils, the increase being higher in SS-amended soils. The SOM kept a satisfactory C/N ratio, lower than 15; the SUVA (Specific UV Absorbance) and E2/E3 index showed normal characteristics of the water-extracted organic matter (WEOC). Both SS amendment and TWW irrigation brought high amounts of nutrients in the considered soils and increased the nutrients disponibility, especially regarding K and P, as shown by the nutrient concentrations in the soil water extracts. The pH increase does not seem to be a problem for the bioavailability of trace elements, at least regarding Cu, Zn, Co, and Fe. Complementary studies should be undertaken for Ni. These observations highlight the potential agronomical benefits of application of wastewater and sewage sludge, even without great technicality, the better results being obtained using both SS amendment and TWW irrigation.

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We thank the Algerian Ministry of High Education and Scientific Research (MESRS) and the Mouloud Mammeri University for the doctoral scholarship and facilities that allowed this work.

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Correspondence to Patricia Merdy.

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Responsible editor: Zhihong Xu

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Cherfouh, R., Lucas, Y., Derridj, A. et al. Long-term, low technicality sewage sludge amendment and irrigation with treated wastewater under Mediterranean climate: impact on agronomical soil quality. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 35571–35581 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-3463-3

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  • Wastewater reuse
  • Sewage sludge reuse
  • Mediterranean zones
  • Soil quality
  • Water-extractible nutrients
  • Metal bioavailability