South East Queensland is one of the fastest growing regions in Australia with a correspondingly rapid increase in sewage production. In response, local councils are investing in more effective and sustainable options for the treatment and reuse of domestic and industrial effluents. A novel, evaporative solar dryer system has been installed on the Sunshine Coast to convert sewage sludge into a drier, usable form of biosolids through solar radiation exposure resulting in decreased moisture concentration and pathogen reduction. Solar-dried biosolids were analyzed for selected pathogenic microbial, metal and organic contaminants at the end of different drying cycles in a collaborative study conducted with the Regional Council. Although fecal coliforms were found to be present, enteroviruses, parasites, E. coli, and Salmonella sp. were not detected in the final product. However, elevated levels of zinc and copper were still present which restricted public use of the biosolids. Dilution of the dried biosolids with green waste as well as composting of the biosolids is likely to lead to the production of an environmentally safe, Class A end-product.
Keywords: biosolids; human pathogenic bacteria; microbial indicators; sewage sludge; solar dryer.