Use of clay minerals for sewage sludge stabilization and a preliminary assessment of the treated sludge’s fertilization capacity

Abstract

Preserving sewage sludge’s N is important for its agronomic use and this could possibly be achieved by treating sludge with certain clay minerals. Nine clay minerals and additionally Ca(OH)2 were added to dewatered sewage sludge at 0–30 % rates (wet weight basis) (treatments). After 70 days of equilibration, all mixtures were analyzed for certain properties and the mineral-sludge mixtures which showed the highest microbial load reduction were further assayed, along with the limed and untreated sludge. From all minerals’ treatments, the fecal indicators of sludge treated with 30% of two bentonites, attapulgite, saponite–attapulgite, and zeolite decreased considerably compared to the control. These treatments were performed also well regarding sludge’s retention capacity of available inorganic N, with the attapulgite and zeolite treatments containing the significantly highest amounts of NO3–N and NH4–N, respectively. For the water-soluble inorganic N, similar results were obtained for the zeolite treatment, whereas the treatments with the two bentonites had the significantly highest NO3–N content. Also, considerable amounts of water-soluble P were obtained in all cases of the treated sludge with minerals. Limed sludge had the lowest content of the water-soluble inorganic N and P. As far as the micronutrients are concerned, only Zn and B were detectable in the water-soluble fraction of all five minerals’ treatments. The heavy metals, which regulate sludge’s agronomic use, were far below the respective permissible limits and lower than the untreated sludge, except for Ni and Cr in the attapulgite and saponite–attapulgite treatments. In conclusion, certain clay minerals, i.e., bentonite, attapulgite, mixed clay of saponite and attapulgite, and zeolite, seem promising materials for the stabilization of sewage sludge in the perspective of using them as a fertilizer. In addition, they seem to have higher fertilizing value than limed sludge. However, environmental (in respect of Ni and Cr) and agricultural (in respect of Zn and B) impacts must be considered.

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Correspondence to Eftihia Samara.

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Samara, E., Matsi, T., Zdragas, A. et al. Use of clay minerals for sewage sludge stabilization and a preliminary assessment of the treated sludge’s fertilization capacity . Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 35387–35398 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05132-y

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Keywords

  • Clay minerals
  • Dewatered sewage sludge
  • Nitrogen retention
  • Pathogens
  • Plant essential nutrients