Sewage sludge for sustainable agriculture: contaminants’ contents and potential use as fertilizer

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivista

36 Citazioni (Scopus)


Background Sewage sludge, the inevitable byproduct of municipal wastewater-treatment plant operation, is a key issue in many countries due to its increasing volume and the impacts associated with its disposal. According to the report of European Commission published in 2010, 39% of sewage sludge produced in the European Union is recycled into agriculture. Management options require extensive waste characterization, since many of them may contain compounds, which could be harmful to the ecosystem, such as heavy metals, organic pollutants, etc. The present study aims to show the results of 2 years’ sampling of sewage sludge—based on 130 samples collected from 35 wastewater-treatment plants situated in the North of Italy—and to assess its suitability as soil fertilizer regarding contents of nonylphenol (NP), nonylphenolethoxylates (NPnEOs), and phthalates (DEHP). Results An effective analytic method for organic pollutants detection in the sewage sludge has been developed, showing an excellent repeatability and recoveries. Ecotoxicological risk assessment was evaluated using risk quotients (RQs) for sludge-amended soil. Most of the analyzed samples do not contain NP, NPnEOs, and DEHP at levels higher than the limit established by the draft-working document of the European Commission on Sludge. The assessment using RQs reports that NP and NPnEOs never give values higher than 1, and for DEHP the obtained RQs exceed the value of 1 just three times. Data obtained were compared to the data from other European and Asiatic countries, showing a huge variability for all the compounds considered. Conclusions Based on the obtained results, it appears that the proposed EU limits for the selected substances on sewage sludge intended to be used as soil fertilizer in agriculture are sufficiently conservative to avoid negative effects on soil fauna.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)5-10
Numero di pagine6
RivistaChemical and Biological Technologies in Agriculture
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2018


  • Sewage sludge, Sustainability, Risk quotient, Soil fertilizer


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