Land application of biosolids (treated sewage sludge) can be an important route for introducing xenobiotic compounds into terrestrial environments. There is a paucity of available information on the effects of biosolids amendment on terrestrial organisms. In this study, the influence of biosolids and biosolids aging on earthworm (Eisenia fetida) reproduction and survival and lettuce (Lactuca sativa) seedling emergence was investigated. Earthworms were exposed to soils amended with varying quantities of biosolids (0, 1, 2, 3, or 4% dry mass). To investigate the influence of biosolids aging, the biosolids used in the study were aged for differing lengths of time (2 or 8 weeks) prior to exposure. All of the adult earthworms survived in the biosolids–amended soils at all concentrations that were aged for 2 weeks; however, only 20% of the adults survived in the soil amended with the highest concentration of biosolids and aged for 8 weeks. Reproduction as measured by mean number of juveniles and unhatched cocoons produced per treatment correlated inversely with biosolids concentration, although the effects were generally more pronounced in the 8-week aged biosolids–soil samples. Latent seedling emergence and reduced seedling fitness correlated inversely with biosolids concentration, but these effects were tempered in the 8-week aged versus the 2-week aged soil–biosolids mixtures. Anthropogenic waste indicator compounds (AWIs) were measured in the biosolids, biosolids–soil mixtures, and earthworm samples. Where possible, bioaccumulation factors (BAFs) were calculated or estimated. A wide variety of AWIs were detected in the biosolids (51 AWIs) and earthworm samples (≤ 19 AWI). The earthworms exposed to the 8-week aged biosolids–soil mixtures tended to accumulate greater quantities of AWIs compared to the 2-week aged mixture, suggesting that the bioavailability of some AWIs was enhanced with aging. The BAFs for a given AWI varied with treatment. Notably large BAFs were determined for some AWIs. For example, the maximum BAF determined for para-cresol, methyl salicylate, bisphenol-A, and cholesterol was greater than 100 in some treatments.
Additional publication details
Earthworm bioassays and seedling emergence for monitoring toxicity, aging and bioaccumulation of anthropogenic waste indicator compounds in biosolids-amended soil