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Screening the environmental fate of organic contaminants in sewage sludges applied to agricultural soils: 1. The potential for downward movement to groundwaters.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date06/1996
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages13
Original languageEnglish


The potential for organic contaminants present in sewage sludge to leach and cause groundwater contamination following sludge application to agricultural land has been assessed. Models used to predict compound mobility in soil on the basis of physico-chemical parameters were applied to a range of contaminants prioritised and/or detected in sludge and a provisional list of potential ‘leachers’ compiled. In addition, theoretical soil water concentrations following sludge application were calculated using mean reported sludge contaminat concentrations and soil/water partition coefficients. These estimated aqueous phase concentrations were compared with Dutch groundwater quality standards in the absence of appropriate UK standards to identify those compounds which could be present in groundwater at levels of concern. The two prioritised lists were used to identify compounds in sludge which could pose a possible threat to groundwater. Appropriate experimental data were not available to qualify model results. However, the screening exercise indicated that under routine operational practice with typical sludge application rates, and the usual range of compound concentrations detected in sludge, groundwater quality standards were unlikely to be exceeded. However, data variability, reliability and scarcity limited the usefulness of this screening approach.