Metals_biosolids paper

Metals_biosolids paper
Waste Management 48 (2016) 404–408
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Waste Management
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/wasman
Metal concentrations in lime stabilised, thermally dried and
anaerobically digested sewage sludges
M.G. Healy a, O. Fenton b, P.J. Forrestal b, M. Danaher c, R.B. Brennan a, L. Morrison d,⇑
a
Civil Engineering, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
Teagasc Johnstown Castle Environment Research Centre, Co. Wexford, Ireland
c
Food Safety Department, Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin 15, Ireland
d
Earth and Ocean Sciences, School of Natural Sciences and Ryan Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
b
a r t i c l e
i n f o
Article history:
Received 12 May 2015
Revised 20 October 2015
Accepted 14 November 2015
Available online 25 November 2015
Keywords:
Treated sludge
Biosolids
Metals
Land application
a b s t r a c t
Cognisant of the negative debate and public sentiment about the land application of treated sewage
sludges (‘biosolids’), it is important to characterise such wastes beyond current regulated parameters.
Concerns may be warranted, as many priority metal pollutants may be present in biosolids. This study
represents the first time that extensive use was made of a handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyser
to characterise metals in sludges, having undergone treatment by thermal drying, lime stabilisation, or
anaerobic digestion, in 16 wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in Ireland. The concentrations of metals, expressed as mg kg 1 dry solids (DS), which are currently regulated in the European Union, ranged
from 11 (cadmium, anaerobically digested (AD) biosolids) to 1273 mg kg 1 (zinc, AD biosolids), and with
the exception of lead in one WWTP (which had a concentration of 3696 mg kg 1), all metals were within
EU regulatory limits. Two potentially hazardous metals, antimony (Sb) and tin (Sn), for which no legislation currently exists, were much higher than their baseline concentrations in soils (17–20 mg Sb kg 1 and
23–55 mg Sn kg 1), meaning that potentially large amounts of these elements may be applied to the soil
without regulation. This study recommends that the regulations governing the values for metal concentrations in sludges for reuse in agriculture are extended to include Sb and Sn.
Ó 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
More than 10 million tonnes of sewage sludges were produced
in the European Union (EU) in 2010 (Eurostat, 2014). Legislation
such as the Landfill Directive, 1999/31/EC (EC, 1999), the Urban
Wastewater Treatment Directive 91/271/EEC (EC, 1991), the Waste
Framework Directive (2008/98/EC; EC, 2008) and the Renewable
Energy Directive (2009/28/EC; EC, 2009), means that rather than
incinerating it or sending it to landfill, there is an increased
emphasis on its reuse as a ‘product’. Consequently, it is used in
the production of energy (Gikas, 2014), bio-plastics (Yan et al.,
2008), construction materials (Jiang et al., 2011) and, when appropriate treatment is applied, as an agricultural fertiliser (Koutroubas
et al., 2014).
There are considerable public acceptance issues around the reuse of treated municipal sludge (‘biosolids’) as fertiliser (LeBlanc
et al., 2008) and, depending on the part of the world, legislation
regarding its reuse as such, differs (Milieu et al., 2013a,b,c).
⇑ Corresponding author.
E-mail address: [email protected] (L. Morrison).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2015.11.028
0956-053X/Ó 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Moreover, in some countries such as Belgium (Brussels and
Flanders), Switzerland and Romania, the use of biosolids in agriculture is prohibited (Milieu et al., 2013a,b,c). While concerns over the
presence of persistent organic pollutants and emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals, have been expressed (Clarke and
Cummins, 2014), the presence of toxic metals in sludge, due to
the mixing of industrial wastewater with sewage, means that the
application of metal-contaminated sludge may cause the contamination of soil and water (Cornu et al., 2001) and accumulation of
metals in the food chain (Kidd et al., 2007; Latare et al., 2014). In
an attempt to address these concerns, guidance values concerning
the maximum allowable concentration of certain metals in biosolids (Table 1) are in place in countries where the reuse of biosolids
on land is permitted. The level of exceedance in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) is therefore of interest.
The application of biosolids to agricultural land is governed by
various legislation (e.g. in Europe by EU Directive 86/278/EEC
(EEC, 1986); in the US by 40 CFR Part 503 (US EPA, 1993)). These
require that sewage sludge undergoes biological, chemical or heat
treatment, long-term storage, or any other process to reduce the
potential for health hazards associated with its use. In the EU, land
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M.G. Healy et al. / Waste Management 48 (2016) 404–408
Table 1
Limit values for metal concentrations in sludge for use in agriculture.
Selenium
(Se)
mg kg
Brazil
100
1
Molybdenum
(Mo)
Arsenic
(As)
Copper
(Cu)
Nickel
(Ni)
Lead
(Pb)
Zinc (Zn)
Cadmium
(Cd)
Chromium
(Cr)
Mercury
(Hg)
Reference
41
1500
40
300
2800
39
1000
17
75
800–
1500
1000–
1750
100–200
2000–
3000
2500–
4000
5–20
300
300–
1000
750–
1200
100
LeBlanc et al.
(2008)
LeBlanc et al.
(2008)
EEC (1986)
dry weight (=ppm)
50
China
EU
Japan
Jordan
Russian
Fed.
USA
50
100
100
75
75
300–400
5–15
20–40
–
16–25
5
500
2
41
1500
300
300
2800
40
900
17
10
750
200
250
1750
15
500
7.5
41–75
1500–
4300
420
300–
840
2800–
7500
39–85
application of biosolids is typically based on its nutrient and metal
content, although individual member states often have more stringent limits than governing directives (LeBlanc et al., 2008; EC,
2010; Milieu et al., 2013a,b,c). Guidelines govern the maximum
rate of nutrients and metals (e.g. Fehily Timoney and Company,
1999), although as the metal content is normally low relative to
the nutrient content of biosolids, application rates are frequently
determined by the nutrient content of the biosolids and not their
metal content (Lucid et al., 2013). As soil acidification may increase
the solubility of metals (Antoniadis et al., 2008), there is a potential
risk of metal accumulation in the soil (Álvarez et al., 2002;
Mamindy-Pajany et al., 2014), in plants (Latare et al., 2014), or of
transport to groundwater, particularly if added in excess
(McBride et al., 1999). In countries such as the USA, where in the
majority of states biosolids are applied to land based on the nitrogen (N) requirement of the crop being grown and not on a soilbased test (McDonald and Wall, 2011), excessive metal accumulation in soil and plants (Wen et al., 2014), or losses in surface and
subsurface waters (Oun et al., 2014), may potentially occur.
Laboratory and field studies have demonstrated that the
addition of biosolids to land as a fertiliser replacement has several
beneficial effects (Monera et al., 2002; Latare et al., 2014). They
provide nutrients and micronutrients (e.g. zinc (Zn), copper (Cu),
cobalt (Co)) required for plant and crop growth, and can be used
as an aid in the development of a soil’s physical and chemical characteristics. Latare et al. (2014) found that applications of biosolids
to land at rates ranging from 10 to 40 tonnes ha 1 increased the
grain yield of rice by up to 40% and increased the available nutrient
content of the soil in comparison to equivalent doses of fertilizers.
However, the metal content of both the plants (cadmium (Cd)) and
soil (Zn) also increased in comparison to the regular fertiliser.
Similar results have been found by other researchers (McBride
et al., 1999; Stietiya and Wang, 2011).
Due to the increasing awareness regarding potential risks to the
environment and human health, the application of sewage sludge,
following treatment, to land as a fertilizer in agricultural systems
has come under increased scrutiny. This is mainly a perception
issue by the food production sector, which is driven by the belief
that best practices for sludge treatment are not being followed
(EPA, 2014b). As metals are likely to remain in the soil indefinitely,
the characterisation of biosolids prior to land application is important. The aim of this study was to: (1) examine if the metal content
of biosolids from high population equivalent (PE) WWTPs in Ireland exceeded permitted limit values and (2) establish a baseline
for unregulated metals – potential pollutants of which little is
known and from which other global studies may be compared.
17–57
LeBlanc et al.
(2008)
LeBlanc et al.
(2008)
LeBlanc et al.
(2008)
US EPA (1993)
To our knowledge, this is the first time that extensive use was
made of a handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyser to carry
out analysis on biosolids.
1.1. Study context in Ireland
In Ireland there were 541 urban areas, with PEs ranging up to
2.3 million, that received either preliminary, primary, secondary,
or secondary treatment and nutrient reduction in 2012 (EPA,
2014a). In 2012, approximately 94% of the national wastewater
load received at least secondary treatment, and the WWTPs produced sewage sludge with a total load of 72,429 tonnes (dry solids,
DS), of which 94.3% was diverted to agriculture, 5.7% was diverted
to composting and other uses, and <0.01% was sent to landfill (EPA,
2014a). Of the treatment processes currently in use in Ireland
(anaerobic and aerobic digestion, composting, thermal drying),
lime stabilisation remains the most popular, due to the relatively
small amount of costs involved (EPA, 2014b).
2. Materials and methods
2.1. Sample collection and preparation
Biosolids were collected from 16 WWTPs or agglomerations,
with PEs ranging up to approximately 2.3 million (Table 2).
Selection of the WWTPs was predicated on willingness to participate in this monitoring study and geographical location (a good
geographical spread was desirable). None of the plants selected
had a history of persistent failures in meeting water discharge
standards (EPA, 2014a). Of the WWTPs examined, most received
landfill leachate in low quantities (no greater than 2% of the total
BOD loading on the WWTP), while others received industrial, commercial and domestic/septic tank sludge comprising up to 30% of
the total influent BOD loading on the WWTP (Table 2). Eight discrete samples (n = 8) of 100 g were collected in clean LDPE containers (Fisher, UK) from each WWTP and stored at 20 °C prior to
analysis. The biosolids samples were freeze dried (Freezone 12,
Labconco, Kansas City, USA) at 50 °C and pulverised in an agate
ball mill (FritschTM Pulverisette 6 Panetary Mono Mill) with a rotational speed of 500 rpm for 5 min (repeated three times) using an
80 ml agate vial and balls (Ø 10 mm).
2.2. Elemental determination
A handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyser (DELTA Series
4000, Olympus INNOV-X, Woburn, MA, USA) in the laboratory
406
M.G. Healy et al. / Waste Management 48 (2016) 404–408
Table 2
Site agglomerations and type of treatment conducted in each location.
a
Site
no.
WWTP/
agglomeration
size (PEs)
Leachate
as % of
influent
BOD load
Industrial/commercial
and domestic/septic
tank sludgea as % of
influent BOD load
Type of
treatment
1
2,362,329
<0.01
<0.01
2
284,696
0.3
24
3
179,000
Unknown
30
4
130,000
Unknown
0.008
5
101,000
2.0
Unknown
6
86,408
0.2
2.1
7
76,456
0
0
8
46,428
0.1
25
9
42,000
<0.01
15
10
31,788
0.25
Unknown
11
30,000
0.081
0
12
27,731
0
2.8
13
27,000
0.2
0
14
25,000
0.7
0
15
22,440
0
0
16
6500
Unknown
Unknown
Thermal
drying,
anaerobic
digestion
Thermal
drying
Anaerobic
digestion
Thermal
drying
Lime
stabilisation
Anaerobic
digestion
Anaerobic
digestion
Lime
stabilisation
Thermal
drying
Lime
stabilisation
Thermal
drying
Anaerobic
digestion
Thermal
drying
Thermal
drying
Lime
stabilisation
Thermal
drying
Most recent available figures in all WWTPs (2013).
(mounted in an integrated bench-top workstation and interfaced
with a PC) in soil environmental mode was employed to determine
metal (Cd, chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), mercury (Hg),
molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), antimony (Sb), selenium
(Se), tin (Sn), and Zn) concentrations. This portable XRF system
consists of a powerful X-ray tube (4 W, Au anode) and a 30 cm2
Silicon Drift Detector (SDD). An internal instrument standardisation was performed using an alloy chip (aligns the Fe and Mo peaks
on the spectrum to compensate for temperature drift) and sewage
sludge certified reference materials (Trace Metals – Sewage Sludge
2 CRM029, Sewage Sludge 3 CRM031 and Sewage Sludge 4
CRM055, Sigma–Aldrich RTC, Inc., USA) were used for calibration/
verification of the P-XRF to matrix match the ‘unknown sewage
sludge samples’ as closely as possible in order to eliminate matrix
effect from the P-XRF analysis. Calibration using the Certified
Reference Materials (CRMs) was achieved by plotting the XRF data
against certified data and inserting a linear trend line to determine
the linearity of the calibration (which is used to calculate the factor
and offset required to correct the data within the instrument). An
aliquot of the homogenised biosolids (approximately 5 g) was
packed into polyethylene XRF sample cups and covered with a
4 lm Prolene sample support window (ChemplexÒ Industries
Inc., USA). Metal concentrations were detected simultaneously
and the operating parameters included a measurement time of
180 s at beam currents of up to 200 lA (maximum voltage of
40 kv and energy resolution of 150 eV). The software uses a compton normalisation algorithm to determine mg kg 1 concentrations
of elements by correlation of the X-ray tube parameters and the
intensity and energy seen by the detector.
2.3. Quality control
Quality control included the use of instrumental blanks (SiO2),
analysis of duplicate samples, and the performance of the method
and stability of the instrument was evaluated by using CRMs of
sewage sludge (Trace Metals – Sewage Sludge 2 CRM029, Sewage
Sludge 3 CRM031 and Sewage Sludge 4 CRM055, Sigma–Aldrich
RTC, Inc., USA), sediments (LKSD-4, lake sediment and PACS-1 marine harbour sediment, National Resources Canada) and soils (SRM
2709a San Joaquin Soil and SRM 2710a Montana Soil I, National
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), USA). The results of
the analysis of the CRMs were in good agreement with their
respective certified and reference ranges (Tables S1 and S2).
Further confirmation of the validity of the P-XRF technique was
provided by the analysis of 15% of the sewage sludge samples
(taken systematically, representing elemental concentrations
across the entire range, as determined by P-XRF) using Inductively
Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) (Agilent 7700) after
digestion with aqua-regia (Trace SELECTÒ, Sigma Aldrich) in a graphite heating block. For the elements that were above the limit of
detection (LOD) of the P-XRF technique (Fe, Cu, Zn, Pb, Se, Mo, Ni,
Sn and Cr) in this portion of the sewage sludge samples, a comparison was made between the results obtained from the P-XRF and
the concentrations determined by ICP-MS. Correlation coefficients
(Pearson Product Moment Correlation for normal distributions and
Spearman’s Rank Order Correlation for non-normal data) between
the P-XRF and ICP-MS results were also determined (SigmaPlot 12,
Systat Software Inc, San Jose, CA).
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Validation of the P-XRF technique
Correlation coefficients between P-XRF and ICP-MS results indicated the suitability and satisfactory use of the P-XRF technique for
the quantification of these elements in sewage sludges (Fe:
r = 0.99, P < 0.001; Cu: r = 0.95, P < 0.0001; Zn: r = 0.98,
P < 0.0001; Se: r = 0.95, P < 0.0001; Mo: r = 0.79, P < 0.0001; Sn:
r = 0.63, P < 0.01; Ni: r = 0.85, P < 0.001; Cr: r = 0.82, P < 0.01; Pb:
r = 0.99, P < 0.0001). Results of the ICP-MS analysis also confirmed
that the levels of Sb and Hg were below the LOD of the P-XRF technique for this portion of comparative samples.
3.2. Overview of metal concentrations in sewage sludge
The mean concentrations of the metals in the sewage sludge following treatment in the 16 WWTPs are given in Table 3. The concentrations of the metals, which are regulated in the EU, and all
expressed as mg kg 1 DS, ranged from 11 (Cd, anaerobically
digested (AD) biosolids) to 1273 mg kg 1 (Zn, AD biosolids), and
were well under EU regulatory limits. Of the parameters not regulated in the EU, but regulated elsewhere (Table 1), As, Se, Mo and Cr
(Table 3) were well below the upper limits of 75, 100, 75 and
1000 mg kg 1, respectively. Of the elements considered bioessential micro-nutrients measured in this study (Se, Fe, Cu and
Zn), all were within either EU or international limits (Table 1)
(no limits govern Fe).
The biosolids from one WWTP, in which anaerobic digestion
was carried out, had an average Pb concentration of 3696 mg kg 1,
well in excess of the threshold value of 1200 mg kg 1. The average
concentrations (across all treatments) of Cu, Pb and Zn were also
well above the median values of internationally published results
(Table 4). Lead is amongst the most hazardous metals, which are
potentially harmful to human health (Johnson and Bretsch,
2002). Other metals measured in this study, which are also
407
M.G. Healy et al. / Waste Management 48 (2016) 404–408
Table 3
Mean (±standard deviation, SD) metal concentration (mg kg 1 dry weight) in sludge
following anaerobic digestion, lime stabilisation, or thermal drying. n refers to the
number of treatments.
Metal
Anaerobic
digestion (n = 5)
Lime
stabilisation
(n = 4)
Thermal drying
(n = 8)
Mean
Mean
SD
Mean
SD
452
2.5
25
1
388
464
15
54
10
869
<LOD
205
7
30
3
400
SD
Regulated parameters in EU
Cu
640
411
491
Ni
25
5
13
Pb
791
1625
33
Cd
11
1
13
Zn
1273
749
526
a
Hg
<LOD
<LOD
Non-regulated parameters in EU
Asb
<LOD
<LOD
Se
3
2
3
Sr
162
61
183
Mo
5
2
4
Ag
11
2
11
Sn
55
57
23
Sb
20
5
17
Cr
51
43
25
Fe
32,135 41,717 9654
a
b
1
75
1
3
4
3
15
7264
<LOD
2
114
5
8
23
17
16
33,087
EU regularity
upper limits
EEC (1986)
compounds such as tributyltin (McBride, 2003). The concentrations of Sn measured in this study ranged from 23 to 55 mg kg 1
(Table 3), which was of the same order as other studies
(26 mg kg 1 – Eriksson, 2001). Normal ranges of Sn in nonpolluting Irish soils are around 1.68 mg kg 1 (Fay et al., 2007). Both
parameters, Sb and Sn, however, are not considered to be of risk to
animals or humans (US EPA, 1995).
3.3. Environmental policy and management implications
1750
400
1200
40
4000
25
Land application of biosolids is, in the main, determined by the
nutrient content of biosolids and not by the metal content (Lucid
et al., 2013). Therefore, the metal content, even if present in relatively high concentrations in the biosolids, may not have any significant impact on soil quality in the short term. However,
accumulation of metals in soil following repeated applications of
biosolids, may be problematic – particularly for those elements
that are not regulated and are harmful to human health. Guidelines
should aim to govern the maximum allowable concentrations of
these elements in biosolids, as well as the land to which they are
applied. Handheld XRF analysis is a useful, quick and relatively
inexpensive method for determining the metal content of biosolids, and should be used frequently to characterise it.
1
36
1
3
5
4
12
43,373
Limit of detection (LOD) = 10 ppm.
LOD = 100 ppm.
4. Conclusions
potentially harmful, are: Cr, Cd, Sn and Sb. Of these parameters, to
date no international standards exist for Sb or Sn in biosolids for
reuse in agriculture. In the present study, the average concentration of Sb ranged from 17 to 20 mg kg 1 (Table 3), which was substantially higher than recorded elsewhere, e.g. <0.01–0.06 mg kg 1
(LeBlanc et al., 2008), 3.4 mg kg 1 (Eriksson, 2001). As the average
concentration of Sb in non-polluted soils is around 0.53 mg kg 1
(Fay et al., 2007) and elevated concentrations in the soil inhibit
the early growth of crop plants (Fjällborg and Dave, 2004; Baek
et al., 2014), the possibility exists that potentially large applications of this parameter are being land applied without regulation.
Tin, in inorganic form, is non-toxic, but a significant portion of sewage sludges may be in a highly toxic, organic form and include
The metals from 16 WWTPs in Ireland were below the maximum allowable concentrations of metals for use in agriculture in
the EU. In addition, they were also within the median levels for
biosolids globally. While current EU and international regulations
govern certain priority metal pollutants and bio-essential elements, other metals that are potentially harmful to human health,
such as Se and Sn, are omitted from the regulations. This means
that a number of toxic metals, which are much higher than their
baseline concentrations in soils, are being applied without regulation. It is recommended that the regulations governing the values
for metal concentrations in biosolids for reuse in agriculture are
extended to cover Sn and Sb. A handheld XRF analyser is a costeffective and rapid method for the analysis of biosolids, and may
be easily applied in WWTPs. Its frequent use would mean that
Table 4
Measured values for metal concentrations in sludge for use in agriculture (adapted from LeBlanc et al. (2008)) compared with average concentrations (across all treatments)
measured in the current study.
Selenium
(Se)
mg kg
Brazil
Bogota, Columbia
Denver, USA
Los Angeles, USA
Milwaukee, USA
Ottawa, Canada
British Columbia,
Canada
Finland
Germany
Italy
Slovenia
Turkey
Sapporo, Japan
Suzu, Japan
Moscow, Russ Fed.
Current study
a
b
1
Molybdenum
(Mo)
Arsenic
(As)a
Copper
(Cu)
Nickel
(Ni)
Lead
(Pb)
Zinc
(Zn)
Cadmium
(Cd)
Chromium
(Cr)
Mercury
(Hg)b
15
19
3
6
8
1
5
255
163
670
1060
266
460
888
42
43
16
51
32
16
26
80
88
39
39
57
51
56
689
1014
714
1180
534
593
588
11
76
2
10
4
1
3
144
73
84
289
50
51
2
8
1
2
0.3
1
3
244
380
261
200
70
140
18
61
22
90
34
29
20
18–1280
0.4
1
0.2
2
3–3820
1
2
2
1
1
<1
2
0–300
520
18
9
62
76
150
34
10
5
0.8–
1070
252
332
956
577
600
300
300
0.9–1200
30
32
16
35
62
35
32
1.4–306
886
12
35
<LOD
dry weight (=ppm)
27
24
15
15
4
113
4
8
20
18
11
2
7
8
0–24
3
LOD = 100 ppm.
Limit of detection (LOD) = 10 ppm.
5
<LOD
0.2
1
0–11
408
M.G. Healy et al. / Waste Management 48 (2016) 404–408
plant managers may determine, with relative ease, the suitability
of biosolids for reuse in agriculture.
Acknowledgements
The authors wish to acknowledge funding from the Irish EPA
(Project reference number 2012-EH-MS-13) and the Department
of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources under the
National Geoscience Programme 2007–2013 (Griffiths Award).
The views expressed in this study are the authors’ own and do
not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Minister for
Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
Appendix A. Supplementary material
Supplementary data associated with this article can be found, in
the online version, at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2015.11.
028.
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