Sewage sludge treatment in constructed wetlands: technical, economic and environmental aspects applied to small communities of the mediterranean region.
ColaboratorFerrer i Martí, Ivet; García i Serrano, Joan; Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. Escola Tècnica Superior d'Enginyers de Camins, Canals i Ports de Barcelona
Document typeDoctoral thesis
PublisherUniversitat Politècnica de Catalunya
Rights accessOpen Access
During the last years, the implementation of new Wastewater Treatment Plants has lead to a significant increase of sludge production. As a response, sludge valorisation in agriculture is the preferred option nowadays, ensuring the return of organic constituents, nutrients and microelements to crop fields. In practice, sludge treatments should provide a final product suitable for land application, with reasonable investment as well as operational and maintenance costs. In this sense, sludge treatment wetlands (STW) appear as a suitable technology for sludge management from an economic and environmental point of view. The main objective of this research work was to assess the suitability of STW for sludge management; with special focus on small communities of the Mediterranean Region. To this end, technical, environmental and economic aspects of the treatment were studied in 3 full-scale systems and in a pilot plant located in Catalonia. A comparison with conventional treatments for sludge management is presented in order to establish the most favourable solution for the Catalan context. As the final result from this work, design and operation criteria are proposed as a guide for STW implementation in small Mediterranean communities. The study of the performance of the full-scale STW suggests good treatment efficiency. Moisture content was reduced by 16-30%, reaching efficiencies similar to those of conventional dewatering technologies. On the other hand, VS were reduced up to 30-49%VS/TS, suggesting the progressive sludge stabilisation and mineralisation. Similar values were found at the end of the treatment in the pilot plant. In this case the sludge volume was reduced around 80% and TS increased up to 16-24%. However, the observed VS reduction (up to 50%VS/TS) after 2 months without feeding, indicates that longer resting periods should be applied in order to increase mineralisation of the sludge. A finite element model able to simulate sludge dewatering in STW was developed by combining the evapotranspiration (ET) and the Terzaghi¿s consolidation theory representing water percolation. The model allows for the determination of the most appropriate feeding frequency as a function of the sludge height stored on the wetland. Similarly, the sludge loading rate is determined as a function of ET, feeding frequency and sludge height. On the whole, the model implemented is a useful tool for the establishment of standardised criteria of STW operation. The characterisation of the final product from the pilot plant and from three full-scale systems demonstrated the suitability of biosolids as organic fertilisers. DRI values indicated the partial stabilisation of the product. Moreover, the absence of phytotoxicity and the heavy metals concentrations below the legal thresholds confirmed their viability to be reused in agriculture. However, in the pilot plant, pathogens were still present after 2 resting months, confirming the necessity of a longer resting period. Monitoring the stabilisation degree as phytotoxicity, heavy metals and pathogens' concentration during the final resting period would help optimising its duration. Looking at the environmental aspects, the static chamber method was successfully adapted to the determination of gas emissions from STW. Aerobic conditions before sludge feeding, characterised by low methane emissions and high nitrous oxide emissions, were strongly altered by fresh sludge feeding, which increases CH4 emissions and reduces N2O emissions. According to the measured emissions, the Global warming potential of STW corresponds to 17kgCO2eq/PE¿y, which is from 2 to 9 times lower than that of sludge centrifugation and transport. Besides,the economic and environmental assessment indicates STW with direct land application as the most cost-effective technique, which is also characterised by the lowest environmental impact.Thus STW are the best solution to manage waste sludge in decentralised small communities.
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