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Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2009 May;72(4):1309-19. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2009.01.007. Epub 2009 Mar 3.

Sewage sludge applied to agricultural soil: Ecotoxicological effects on representative soil organisms.

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Laboratory for Ecotoxicology, Department of the Environment, INIA, Crta. La Coruña km 7.5, 28040 Madrid, Spain.


Application of sewage sludge to agricultural lands is a current practice in EU. European legislation permits its use when concentrations of metals in soil do not increase above the maximum permissible limits. In order to assess the fate and the effects on representative soil organisms of sewage sludge amendments on agricultural lands, a soil microcosm (multi-species soil system-MS3) experiment was performed. The MS3 columns were filled with spiked soil at three different doses: 30, 60 and 120tha(-1) fresh wt. Seed plants (Triticum aestivum, Vicia sativa and Brassica rapa) and earthworms (Eisenia fetida) were introduced into the systems. After a 21-d exposure period, a statistically significant increase for Cd, Cu, Zn and Hg concentrations was found for the soils treated with the highest application rate. Dose-related increase was observed for nickel concentrations in leachates. Plants and earthworm metal body burden offer much more information than metal concentrations and help to understand the potential for metal accumulation. Bioaccumulation factor (BAF(plant-soil)) presented a different behavior among species and large differences for BAF(earthworm-soil), from control or sewage-amended soil, for Cd and Hg were found. B. rapa seed germination was reduced. Statistically significant decrease in fresh biomass was observed for T. aestivum and V. sativa at the highest application rate, whereas B. rapa biomass decreased at any application rate. Enzymatic activities (dehydrogenase and phosphatase) as well as respiration rate on soil microorganisms were enlarged.

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