Potential benefits and disbenefits of the application of water treatment residuals from drinking water treatment processes to land in Scotland: development of a decision support tool

Andrew Minto*, Daniel Gilmour, M. Ehsan Jorat, Irene Tierney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
85 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Water Treatment Residuals (WTRs) are a by-product of the addition of chemical coagulants to water during the water treatment process and are a mixture of water and organic and inorganic matter that coagulates during the treatment process. WTRs often contain metals such as iron, aluminium, and manganese that have been oxidised as part of the process or are constituents of the coagulation chemicals used. The metals within WTRs are of interest with regard to applying these sludges to agricultural land. WTRs can also contain beneficial organic matter and nutrients (primarily nitrogen). The nature of the benefits delivered is largely dependent on the quality of the raw water and these beneficial components are generally found in much smaller quantities in WTRs than are found in sewage sludge produced from wastewater. However, WTRs can still be used to enhance the physical properties of soils. As urban populations increase in size, it is anticipated that the tonnage of WTRs will increase significantly in the future. At present, the majority of WTRs are disposed of in landfills; however, landfill charges are increasing significantly, making disposal of an increasing tonnage of WTRs financially unviable. In terms of a circular economy, the procedure of reusing WTRs for alternative applications satisfies the Scottish Government’s goals in terms of waste prevention and reducing the amount of material being sent to landfill as set out in the Proposals for Legislation in 2019. Given the potential benefits in terms of cost savings and compliance with government legislation, and the complexities of understanding where and when WTRs can be used in land applications, we developed a Decision Support Tool (DST) that uses data obtained from an extensive review of approaches in other countries to assist in decision making. We also conducted a pre-application analysis and provided guidance on when and where WTRs can be used in land applications and when they are not suitable, presented in a simplified format that requires few inputs from the user in order to simplify the process and removes the requirement for a specialist operator during pre-application analyses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9268
Number of pages17
JournalSustainability
Volume15
Issue number12
Early online date8 Jun 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2023

Keywords

  • Circular economy
  • Decision making
  • Decision support tool
  • Waste
  • Water treatment residuals

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