Vermistabilization of sewage sludge (biosolids) by earthworms

Feb 4th, 2014

Vermistabilization of sewage sludge (biosolids) by earthworms: converting a potential biohazard destined for landfill disposal into a pathogen-free, nutritive and safe biofertilizer for farms

Rajiv K. Sinha, Sunil Herat, Gokul Bharambe, Ashish Brahambhatt

Griffith School of Engineering (Environment), Griffith University, Nathan Campus, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia Earthworms feed readily upon sludge components, rapidly converting them into vermicompost, reduce the pathogens to safe levels and ingest the heavy metals. Volume is significantly reduced from 1 m3 of wet sludge (80% moisture) to 0.5 m3 of vermicompost (30% moisture). Earthworms have real potential both to increase the rate of aerobic decomposition and composting of organic matter and also to stabilize the organic residues in the sludge – removing the harmful pathogens (by devouring them and also by discharge of antibacterial coelomic fluid) and heavy metals (by bio-accumulation). They also mineralize the essential nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from the sludge. It may not be possible to remove toxic substances completely, but at least change the ‘chemical make-up’ of the sludge to make it harmless to the soil and enable its use as a nutritive organic fertilizer. This method has been found to comply with grade A standards for sludge stabilization.

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