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The effect on the environment of the operation of sludge treatment in reed beds (STRB) system is seen as quite limited compared to traditional sludge treatment systems such as mechanical dewatering, drying and incineration with their accompanying use of chemicals and energy consumption. There are several STRB systems in Denmark receiving sludge from urban wastewater treatment plants. Stabilization and mineralization of the sludge in the STRB systems occur during a period between 10 and 20 years, where after the basins are emptied and the sludge residue typically is spread on agricultural land. In the present study, the sludge residue quality after treatment periods of 10-20 years from four Danish STRBs is presented. After reduction, dewatering and mineralization of the feed sludge (dry solid content of 0.5-3 %) in the STRB systems, the sludge residue achieved up to 26 % dry solid, depending on the sludge quality and dimensioning of the STRB system. The concentration of heavy metals and hazardous organic compounds in the sludge residue that are listed in the Danish and EU legislation for farmland application of sludge was below the limit values. The nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations as an average in the sludge residue were 28 and 36 g/kg dry solid (DS), respectively. In addition, mineralization on average across the four STRB systems removed up to 27 % of the organic solids in the sludge. The investigation showed that the sludge residue qualities of the four STRBs after a full treatment period all complied with the Danish and European Union legal limits for agricultural land disposal.


Steen Nielsen, Esben Wilson Bruun. Sludge quality after 10-20 years of treatment in reed bed systems. Environmental science and pollution research international. 2015 Sep;22(17):12885-91

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PMID: 25422113

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