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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Waste Management

Biosolids Impact Soil Phosphorus Accountability, Fractionation, and Potential Environmental Risk


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 36 No. 3, p. 764-772
    Received: Aug 4, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): jim.ippolito@colostate.edu
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  1. J. A. Ippolito *,
  2. K. A. Barbarick and
  3. K. L. Norvell
  1. Dep. of Soil and Crop Sciences, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO, 80523-1170


Biosolids land application rates are typically based on crop N requirements but can lead to soil P accumulation. The Littleton/Englewood, Colorado, wastewater treatment facility has supported biosolids beneficial-use on a dryland wheat-fallow agroecosystem site since 1982, with observable soil P concentration increases as biyearly repeated biosolids applications increased from 0, 6.7, 13, 27, to 40 Mg ha−1 The final study year was 2003, after which P accountability, fractionation, and potential environmental risk were assessed. Between 93 and 128% of biosolids-P added was accounted for when considering conventional tillage soil displacement, grain removal, and soil adsorption. The Fe-P fraction dominated all soil surface P fractions, likely due to an increase in amorphous Fe-oxide because Fe2(SO4)3 was added at the wastewater treatment facility inflow for digester H2S reduction. The Ca-P phase dominated all soil subsurface P fractions due to calcareous soil conditions. A combination of conventional tillage, drought from 1999 to 2003, and repeated and increasing biosolids application rates may have forced soil surface microorganism dormancy, reduction, or mortality; thus, biomass P reduction was evident. Subsurface biomass P was greater than surface biomass, possibly due to protection against environmental and anthropogenic variables or to increased dissolved organic carbon inputs. Even given years of biosolids application, the soil surface had the ability to sorb additional P as determined by shaking the soil in an excessive P solution. Biosolids-application regulations based on the Colorado Phosphorus Index would not impede current site practices. Proper monitoring, management, and addition of other best management practices are needed for continued assurance that P movement off-site does not become a major issue.

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