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A contemporary and historical analysis of the trace element composition of sewage sludge in the United Kingdom

  • Smith, S
  • Liu, J
  • Liu, S
Publication Date
Dec 06, 2020
Spiral - Imperial College Digital Repository


Sewage sludge is the essential by‐product of wastewater treatment and approaching 100% of the sludge generated in the United Kingdom is recycled to agricultural land. In collaboration with three major Water Utility companies in the United Kingdom, a critical statistical analysis of historical and contemporary sludge quality data was completed to demonstrate the long‐term patterns and improvements in the trace element (TE) content of sludge recycled to agriculture since 1989, and to indicate the current status of sludge quality in the United Kingdom. Comparisons with pollutant emission inventory data showed most of the TE concentrations in sludge were strongly linked to declining environmental emissions. A soil accumulation model showed that zinc and copper would be the first to approach their statutory soil limits in the long term and that nickel, cadmium, lead and mercury are no longer significant and, from a practical perspective, could be removed from the regulatory controls on agricultural use.

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