Land disposal of water treatment residue (WTR), a by-product of potable water production, is increasingly being considered a viable alternative to land filling. It is crucial, inter alia, that soil quality is not affected adversely. Six different WTRs obtained from South African water treatment facilities were added to Hutton and Westleigh topsoils at rates of 0, 5, 15 and 25% (m/m) to determine their impacts on soil basal respiration. In general, respiration increased with rate of addition of WTR. The Umgeni, Rand, Midvaal and Faure2 WTRs had the greatest effect on respiration. Increases in respiration became less marked with time. The Hutton topsoil was mixed with the WTRs (at 15% m/m) and, following incubation, the bacterial community structure was examined by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. Changes in community structure were detected after 5 d and were attributed to physico-chemical changes arising from WTR amendment. However, dominant bands associated with the Hutton soil were retained and microbial diversity was not adversely affected. The findings of this investigation suggest that WTRs can be applied to the Hutton soil at a rate of at least 15% (300 Mg ha−1) without having a detrimental effect on microbial indicators of soil quality.

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