Peer review artikel

Soil self-cleaning capacity: Removal of organic compounds during sub-surface irrigation with sewage effluent


“Globally, the reuse of treated sewage effluent for irrigation purposes is increasingly encouraged as a practical solution against the mismatch between the demand for and availability of freshwater resources. The reuse of sewage effluent for sub-surface irrigation (SSI) in agriculture serves the dual purpose of supplying water to crops and diminishing emissions of contaminants of emerging concern (CoECs) into surface water. To investigate such reuse, in a real scale cropland with SSI using sewage effluent, from September 2017 to March 2019 including the extremely dry year 2018, residues were followed of 133 CoECs as related to their physicochemical properties and quantified by liquid chromatography coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry. Of the 133 target CoECs, 89 were retrieved in the field, most non-detect CoECs have low persistency. During the growing season with sub-surface irrigation, CoECs spread to the shallow groundwater and rhizosphere. Significantly lower concentrations are found between infiltration pipes as compared to directly next to the pipes in shallow groundwater for all persistency-mobility classes. CoECs belonging to the class pm (low persistency and low mobility) or class PM (high persistency and high mobility) class show no change amongst their removal in the rhizosphere and groundwater in a dry versus normal year. CoECs belonging to the class pM (low persistency and high mobility) show high seasonal dynamics in the rhizosphere and shallow groundwater, indicating that these CoECs break down. CoECs of the class Pm (high persistency and low mobility) only significantly build up in the rhizosphere next to infiltration pipes. Climatic conditions with dry summers and precipitation surplus and drainage in winter strongly affect the fate of CoECs. During the dry summer of 2018 infiltrated effluent is hardly diluted, resulting in significantly higher concentrations for the CoECs belonging to the classes pM and Pm. After the extremely dry year of 2018, cumulative concentrations are still significantly higher, while after a normal year during winter precipitation surplus removes CoECs. For all persistency-mobility classes in the shallow groundwater between the pipes, we find significant removal efficiencies. For the rhizosphere between the pipes, we find the same except for Pm. Next to the pipes however we find no significant removal for all classes in both the rhizosphere and shallow groundwater and even significant accumulation for Pm. For this group of persistent moderately hydrophobic CoECs risk characterization ratio’s were calculated for the period of time with the highest normalized concentration. None of the single-chemical RCRs are above one and the ΣRCR is also far below one, implying sufficiently safe ambient exposures. Overall the deeper groundwater (7.0–11.8 m below soil surface) has the lowest response to the sub-surface irrigation for all persistency-mobility. When adopting a SSI STP effluent reuse system care must be taken to monitor the CoECs that are (moderately) hydrophobic as these can build up in the SSI system. For the deeper groundwater and for the discharge to the surface water, we find significant removal for the pM and the PM class but not for other classes. In conclusion, relatively high removal efficiencies are shown benefiting the surface waters that would otherwise receive the STP effluent directly.”

(Citation: Narain-Ford, D.M., van Wezel, A.P., – Soil self-cleaning capacity: Removal of organic compounds during sub-surface irrigation with sewage effluent – Water Research 226(2022)119303 – DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2022.119303 – (Open Access))

© 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This article is available under the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND license

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