Aquatic worms eat sludge: mass balances and processing of worm faeces

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Abstract

Reduction of the amount of waste sludge from waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) can be achieved with the aquatic worm Lumbriculus variegatus in a new reactor concept. In addition to reducing the amount of waste sludge, further processing of produced worm faeces and released nutrients should also be considered. This study gives the mass balances for sludge consumed by L. variegatus, showing the fate of the consumed organic material, nutrients and heavy metals associated with the sludge. A distinction is made between conversion into worm biomass, release as dissolved metabolites and what remains in the worm faeces. The results showed that 39% of the nitrogen and 12% of the phosphorus in the sludge digested by the worms are used in the formation of new worm biomass, which has potential for reuse. Experiments showed that settling of the worm faeces leads to a factor 2.5 higher solids concentration, compared to settling of waste sludge. This could lead to a 67% reduction of the volumetric load on thickening equipment. The worm reactor is expected to be most interesting for smaller WWTPs where a decrease on the volumetric load on sludge handling operations will have most impact
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-638
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Volume177
Issue number1-3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • waste-water-treatment
  • activated-sludge
  • reduction
  • removal
  • reactor

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