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J Environ Qual. 2005 Jan-Feb;34(1):29-41.

Beneficial reuse and sustainability: the fate of organic compounds in land-applied waste.

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  • 1Chemical Engineering Department, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA.


Land application systems, also referred to as beneficial reuse systems, are engineered systems that have defined and permitted application areas based on site and waste characteristics to determine the land area size requirement. These terrestrial systems have orders of magnitude greater microbial capability and residence time to achieve decomposition and assimilation compared with aquatic systems. In this paper we focus on current information and information needs related to terrestrial fate pathways in land treatment systems. Attention is given to conventional organic chemicals as well as new estrogenic and pharmaceutical chemicals of commerce. Specific terrestrial fate pathways addressed include: decomposition, bound residue formation, leaching, runoff, and crop uptake. Molecular decomposition and formation of bound residues provide the basis for the design and regulation of land treatment systems. These mechanisms allow for assimilation of wastes and nondegradation of the environment and accomplish the goal of sustainable land use. Bound residues that are biologically produced are relatively immobile, degrade at rates similar to natural soil materials, and should present a significantly reduced risk to the environment as opposed to parent contaminants. With regard to leaching and runoff pathways, no comprehensive summary or mathematical model of organic chemical migration from land treatment systems has been developed. For the crop uptake pathway, a critical need exists to develop information for nonagricultural chemicals and to address full-scale performance and monitoring at more land application sites. The limited technology choices for treatment of biosolids, liquids, and other wastes implies that acceptance of some risks and occurrence of some benefits will continue to characterize land application practices that contribute directly to the goal of beneficial reuse and sustainability.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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