The reuse of biosolids on agricultural land: Critical issues and perspective

Water Environ Res. 2020 Jan;92(1):11-25. doi: 10.1002/wer.1196. Epub 2019 Aug 21.


The sludge management represents a considerable amount of operational costs for wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Issues concerning the treatment and the recovery/disposal of biosolids are gaining importance especially in Lombardy region, where the biosolid landspreading on agricultural soils is a very common practice. The aim of this work was to evaluate the results obtained from a survey carried out on the biosolids/sludge, derived from WWTPs, ingoing to and outgoing from the STPs (sludge treatment plants-authorized for the treatment on behalf of third parties) located in Pavia Province. Moreover, the characterization of agricultural soils that receive the biosolids is carried out. Furthermore, the whole biosolid management chain, from production to landspreading on agricultural soils, was studied, highlighting the critical issues based on the survey results. The results obtained suggested the following actions: (a) the reduction of sludge production in WWTPs; (b) a more "controlled" production in terms of biosolid qualitative characteristics; (c) better "selection" of the sludge ingoing to STPs; and (d) more effective actions to control the "response" of the agricultural soils. Furthermore, full compliance with the best spreading practices on the soils is required, as well as a better use of agronomic skills to obtain a higher resource valorization. PRACTITIONER POINTS: In this work, the characteristics of biosolid spread in agricultural soils in Pavia Province were analyzed. The minimization of sludge production in WWTPs is encouraged in order to reduce critical issues related to biosolid management. The stabilization process in WWTPs should improve in order to obtain a better quality sludge. A better "selection" of the sludge ingoing to STPs and a more effective monitoring of the agricultural soils are encouraged.

Keywords: agricultural recovery; environmental impacts; heavy metals; nutrient recovery.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Biosolids*
  • Sewage
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants*


  • Biosolids
  • Sewage
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants

Grant support