Capacity to Influence Sources of Heavy Metals to Wastewater Treatment Sludge

Sérme, Louise; Lindqvist, Annica; Séderberg, Henriette
March 2003
Environmental Management;Mar2003, Vol. 31 Issue 3, p0421
Academic Journal
Wastewater treatment sludge contains valuable nutrients, yet represents a residue problem due to the amount of heavy metals, which is one of the factors preventing the use of sludge as fertilizer. In Sweden, the government has a declared aim of closing the ecocycles of nutrients to arable land, while at the same time the existing limit values are among the lowest in the world. This paper focuses on the opportunities for Swedish wastewater utilities (WWUs) to manage and reduce sources of heavy metals in order to get sludge approved and recycled. A case study focusing on sources of the heavy metals Cd, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb, and Zn and the WWUs ability to influence the source by means of existing regulations was traced and categorized. A substantial fraction of the heavy metals were shown to be caused by diffuse emissions, such as the use of goods and products in society. For most sources discussed in the paper, a WWU can only manage the sources to a limited extent, if at all. This study shows that the WWUs cannot manage both recycling of nutrients and a decrease in heavy metals ending up in sludge. Diffuse emissions of heavy metals must be examined in context, not as a separate phenomenon or an issue for a single actor. The existing environmental legislation does not handle diffuse sources, yet long-term strategies for reducing the emissions to wastewater treatment must involve the reduction of diffuse emissions.


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