The presence, in sewage sludge, of excess levels of the potentially toxic elements (PTE) copper, zinc, chromium, cadmium, nickel, lead and mercury, could impact on our ability to recycle these residues in the future. Far stricter limits on the levels of PTEs are likely in proposed legislation. A method involving the dosing of Fenton's reagent, a mixture of ferrous iron and hydrogen peroxide, under acidic conditions was evaluated for its potential to reduce metal levels. The [Fe]:[H2O2] (w/w) ratio was found to give a good indication of the percentage copper and zinc elution obtainable. Sites with no iron dosing as part of wastewater treatment required extra iron to be added in order to initiate the Fenton's reaction. A significant reduction, in excess of 70%, of the copper and zinc was eluted from both raw primary and activated sludge solid fractions. Cadmium and nickel could be reduced to below detection limits but elution of mercury, lead and chromium was less than 40%. The iron catalyst concentration was found to be a crucial parameter. This process has the potential to reduce the heavy metal content of the sludge and allow the recycling of sludge to continue in a sustainable manner.

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