First an overview of the systems currently in use and being discussed for sludge treatment is presented will) particular emphasis on distinguishing between the object of the system (conditioning objective of the various phases in the system) and a system concept (concept of various phases of the system in sequence to attain the disposal objective). More detailed information is given as to the salient systems as used with smaller sewage treatment plants in rural areas, such as digestion, dewatering, hygienization, composting and thermal drying.

A further item of discussion is how sludge treatment influences the sewage treatment process. For the critical emissions (nitrogen, phosphorus) demanded in Germany, and thus for the degree of sewage treatment required, the load of the sewage treatment system resulting from sludge treatment needs to be taken into account. Accordingly, operation of sludge treatment and sewage purification must always be harmonized. The extent of these return loads also limits the spatial centralization of the system phases; this applies in particular to smaller sewage treatment plants in rural areas.

In conclusion, an attempt is made to present a perspective for the agricultural utilization of such sludge in Germany. Since the critical values for emissions have been further tightened by new regulations, thus considerably elevating the associated sophistication of monitoring techniques, it is to be expected that the use of sewage sludge in agriculture will also be further reduced in rural areas, especially since public awareness of emission control has considerably reduced the acceptance of sewage sludge as fertilizer.

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