Four test fields in the south Dade agricultural area were studied to determine the effects of sludge application on ground-water quality. Two fields had been cultivated for 10 years or more, and two had not been farmed for at least 10 years. The fields were representative of the area's two soil types (Rockdale and Perrine marl) and two major crop types (row crops and groves). Before the application of sludge, wells upgradient of, within, and downgradient of each field were sampled for possible sludge contaminants at the end of wet and dry seasons. Municipal wastewater treatment sludge from the Dade County Water and Sewe Authority Department was then applied to the fields at varying application rates. The wells at each field were sampled over a 2-year period under different hydrologic conditions for possible sludge-related constituents (specific conductance, pH, alkalinity, nitrogen, phosphorus, total organic carbon, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc, arsenic, cadmium, chloride, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel, and sodium). Comparisons were made between water quality in the vicinity of the test fields and Florida Department of Environmental Regulation primary and secondary drinking-water regulations, an between water quality upgradient of, beneath, and downgradient of the fields.
Comparisons between presludge and postsludge water quality did not indicate any improvement because of retention of agrichemicals by the sludge nor did they indicate any deterioration because of leaching from the sludge. Comparisons of water quality upgradient of the fields to water quality beneath and downgradient of the fields also did not indicate any changes related to sludge.
Florida Department of Environmental Regulation primary and secondary drinking-water regulations wer exceeded at the Rockdale maximum-application field by mercury (9.5 ug/L (micrograms per liter)), and the Perrine marl maximum-application field by manganese (60 ug/L) and lead (85 ug/L), and at the Perrine marl row-crop field by mercury (5.2 ug/L). All other exceedances were either in presludge or upgradient samples, or they were for constituents or properties, such as iron and color, which typically exceed standards in native ground water.
Acid-extractable and base-neutral compounds, volatile organic compounds, chlorophenoxy herbicides, organophosphorus insecticides, and organochlorine compounds were analyzed for one shallow well at each field twice annually. Those compounds that equaled or exceeded the detection limit after sludge was applied included benzene (0.3 and 1.2 ug/L), chloroform (0.2 and 0.3 ug/L), bis(2-Ethylhexyl)phthalate (29 and 42 ug/L), methylene chloride (14 ug/L), tolulene (0.2, 0.4, 0.5, 1.3, and 4.4 ug/L), 1, 1,1-trichloroethana (0.6 ug/L), trichloroethylene (0.3 ug/L), 2.4-D (0.01 ug/L), and xylene (0.3 ug/L). It ws not possible to ascertain the origin of these compounds becuase they are available from sources other than sludge.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Effects of dried wastewater-treatment sludge application on ground-water quality in South Dade County, Florida