Vermistabilization of sewage sludge (biosolids) by earthworms: converting a potential biohazard destined for landfill disposal into a pathogen-free, nutritive and safe biofertilizer for farms
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Earthworms feed readily upon sludge components, rapidly converting them into vermicompost, reduce the pathogens to safe levels and ingest the heavy metals. Volume is significantly reduced from 1 m3 of wet sludge (80% moisture) to 0.5 m3 of vermicompost (30% moisture). Earthworms have real potential both to increase the rate of aerobic decomposition and composting of organic matter and also to stabilize the organic residues in the sludge - removing the harmful pathogens (by devouring them and also by discharge of antibacterial coelomic fluid) and heavy metals (by bio-accumulation). They also mineralize the essential nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from the sludge. It may not be possible to remove toxic substances completely, but at least change the 'chemical make-up' of the sludge to make it harmless to the soil and enable its use as a nutritive organic fertilizer. This method has been found to comply with grade A standards for sludge stabilization.
Waste Management & Research
Copyright 2009 The Authors. This is the author-manuscript version of the paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Agriculture, Land and Farm Management not elsewhere classified