Nutrient transfer by runoff from sewage sludge amended soil under simulated rainfall

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Wastewater sludges are used in agriculture as soil amendment and fertilizer, with regard to their organic matter and nutrient content. However, availability of nitrogen and phosphorus from sludge-amended soils and their transfer in runoff may lead to eutrophication of downstream surface water. The aim of this study is to establish and compare the effect of two different sludges on these transfers: an anaerobically digested and thermically stabilised sludge (Seine-Aval treatment plant, sludge no. 1), and a limed sludge (Saint-Quentin treatment plant, sludge no. 2). Experiments were performed on 12 sloping micro-plots (1 m × 1 m) submitted to sludge spreading and controlled rainfall simulation. Runoff water was sampled and analysed for concentrations in nitrogen species and phosphorus. Results show that spreading of sludge no. 1 increased both ammonium nitrogen (mean of 1.1 mg L–1 N-NH4 vs. 0.2 mg L–1 N-NH4 for control micro-plots) and particulate phosphorus concentrations (mean of 2 mg L–1 P vs. 1.1 mg L–1 P for control micro-plots) in runoff water. On the other hand, sludge no. 2 did not induce any significant effect on nutrient concentrations in runoff. These results are related to chemical composition and physical treatment of sludges. This study underlines the existence of a short-term risk of nutrient mobilisation by runoff after sludge spreading on soil, and the need to check precisely the impact of this practice on water quality.

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