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Persistence of organic contaminants in soils from a sewage sludge amended field experiment.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date11/1997
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Number of pages11
Original languageEnglish


Digested sludge was applied to plowed arable and pasture grassland plots and losses of specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), and chlorophenols (CPs) monitored over 260 d. Sludge addition increased soil concentrations of all compounds in the plowed plot. VOCs, PCBs, and CPs concentrations declined to control plot values within 128 d of sludge amendment. Volatilization and biodegradation were considered important loss processes for these compounds. However, PCDD/F and of non-o-PCB 77 concentrations did not change consistently and remained elevated above control plot concentrations throughout the monitoring period. At Day 260 410 ± 53 ng PCDD kg–1 and 250 ± 10 ng PCDF kg–1 was detected in the sludged plot compared to 68 ± 9 ng PCDD kg–1 and 170 ± 7 ng PCDF kg–1 in the control plot. Data from the pasture plot has highly variable and differences between most contaminant concentrations in the sludged and control plots were insignificant. This was attributed to adherence of much of the applied sludge to vegetation rather than direct application to the soil surface and has important implications for elevated dietry intake of certain persistent organic compounds such as the PCDD/Fs. Further research is needed to evaluate the importance of sludge adherence to vegetation for human exposure to a range of contaminants detected in sludge. Contaminant movement to depth (20 cm) was not detected within 260 d for compounds monitored (VOCs and PCDD/Fs).