Assessing the Suitability of Sewage-Sludge Produced in Kolkata, India for Their Agricultural Use

Assessing the usability of sewage-sludge in agriculture

  • Sushanta Saha Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya
  • Bholanath Saha Bihar Agricultural University
  • Gorachand Hazra Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya
  • Sajal Pati Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya
  • Biplab Pal Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya
  • Dipa Kundu Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya
  • Animesh Ghosh Bag Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya
  • Nitin Chatterjee Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya
  • Kaushik Batabyal Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya
Keywords: Bioavailability; Essential Nutrients; Environmental Contamination; Heavy Metals; Sewage-sludge


Ever-increasing production of industrial and city waste is a serious problem in India because of high economic and environmental costs involved for their safe disposal. However, their application to agricultural soils provides an opportunity to recycle some essential plant nutrients viz., organic C, N and P. In this study, suitability of sludges produced in Kolkata, India for their agricultural uses has been assessed by analyzing the plant nutrients availability, heavy metals loads, and their mobility in terms of the rate of release and potential negative effect on soil and plants by using the sequential chemical extraction procedures. Result indicated that the sludge produced at different sewage treatment plants (STPs) of Kolkata were rich in major nutrients mainly organic C, N and P but the K content was much lower. The concentrations of Zn, Pb, Ni, Cu (excepting Bhatpara and Chandannagore) and Cd (excepting Kamarhati and Garden Reach) in sludges of all the sites exceeded the permissible standards as recommended by Central Pollution Control Board, India and should be restricted for use in agriculture. Speciation study also revealed that a considerable portion of Zn, Cd, Pb and Ni were distributed in the exchangeable, MnO2 and sesquioxide bound fractions, indicating high bioavailability and potential toxicity to the environment, while Cu was primarily distributed in the organically bound fraction. The study therefore suggest that the sludges produced in Kolkata, should not be used directly in agricultural purposes unless subjected to bioremediation or chemical remediation for reducing heavy metals load to a permissible level.


Antonious G F (2009) Enzyme activities and heavy metals concentration in soil amended with sewage sludge J Environ Sci Health, Part A 44 1019–1024
APHA (1995) Standards methods for the examination of water and waste water. American Public Health Association, 19th ed. Water Pollution Control Federation, New York, USA
Balkhair K S and Ashraf M A (2016) Field accumulation risks of heavy metals in soil and vegetable crop irrigated with sewage water in western region of Saudi Arabia Saudi J Biol Sci 23 32–44
Chitdeshwari T, Savithri S and Raja M (2002) Effect of sewage biosolids compost on biomass yield of amaranthus and heavy metal availability J Indian Soc Soil Sci 50 481-484
CPCB (2006) Characterization of MSW compost and its application in agriculture. Central Pollution Control Board, New Delhi
Dubey S K, Yadav R K, Joshi P K, Chaturvedi R K, Goyel B, Yadav R and Minhas P S (2006) Agricultural uses of sewage sludge and water and their impact on soil water and environmental health in Haryana, India. Proceedings of the 18th World Congress of Soil Science, July 9-15, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA pp 81-82, International Union of Soil Sciences, Soil Science Society of America and National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
Fanny S R, Jorge M E, Mario U M and Cruz M Q (2015) Degradation of sewage sludge from plant wastewater using vermicompost Int J Modern Biol Res 4 1-4
Farmer A M (2012) Manual of European Environmental Policy. Routledge, London
Farrell M and Jones D L (2010) Use of composts in the remediation of heavy metal contaminated soil J Hazard Mater 175 575-582
Farrell M, Perkins W T, Hobbs P J, Griffith G W and Jones D L (2010) Migration of heavy metals in soil as influenced by compost amendments Environ Pollut 158 55–64
Fuentes A, Liorens M, Sáez J, Soler A, Aguilar M I, Ortuńo J F and Meseguer V F (2004) Simple and sequential extractions of heavy metals from different sewage sludges Chemosphere 54 1039−1047
Hooda P S and Alloway B J (1994) Changes in operational fractions of trace metals in two soils during two-years of reaction time following sewage sludge treatment Int J Environ Anal Chem 57 289-311
Jackson M L (1973) Soil chemical analysis. Prentice Hall India, New Delhi
Juwarkar A S, Juwarkar A, Desbhratar P B and Bal A S (1991) Exploitation of nutrient potential of sewage and sludge through land application. In: Asian experience in integrated plant nutrition, Regional office for Asia and Pacific (RAPA) pp 178-201, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Bangkok
Kaur R, Wani S P, Singh A K and Lal K (2012) Wastewater production, treatment and use in India. National report presented at the 2nd regional workshop on safe use of wastewater in agriculture, May 16-18, 2012, New Delhi, India. Report_India.pdf. Accessed 04 July 2017
Liu J and Sun S (2013) Total concentrations and different fractions of heavy metals in sewage sludge from Guangzhou, China Trans Nonferrous Met Soc China 23 2397-2407
Ma X, Weng H and Zhang J (2011) Regional characteristics and trend of heavy metals and nutrients of sewage sludges in China China Environ Sci 31 1306-1313
Maiti P S, Sah K D, Gupta S K and Banerjee S K (1992) Evaluation of sewage sludge as a source of irrigation and manure J Indian Soc Soil Sci 40 168-172
Meng W, Wang Z, Hu B, Wang Z, Li H and Goodman R C (2016) Heavy metals in soil and plants after long-term sewage irrigation at Tianjin China: A case study assessment Agric Water Manag 171 153-161
Nandakumar K, Ramamurthy S, Rajarajan A and Savarimuthu E (1998) Suitability of Dindigul town’s sewage sludge for field application: nutritional perspective Poll Res 17 61-63
Nelson DW and Sommers L E (1982) Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. In: Methods of soil analysis, Part 2, 2nd edn. (Eds: Page AL, Miller RH and Keeney DR) pp 539–579, Agronomy Monograph, 9, ASA and SSSA, Madison, Wisconsin
Outhman A M and Firdous F (2016) The impact of the use of sludge in agriculture on the vegetative growth of cereal crops Int J Adv Industrial Eng 41-9
Page A L, Miller R H and Keeney D R (1982) Methods of Soil Analysis, Part-2, 2nd edn.American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America, Madison, Wisconsin
Placek A, Grobelak A and Kacprzak M (2016) Improving the phytoremediation of heavy metals contaminated soil by use of sewage sludge Int J Phytoremediation 18 605-618
Richard L A (1954) Diagnosis and improvement of saline and alkaline soils. Handbook No. 60, U.S. Salinity Laboratory Staff, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Washington D.C
Saha S, Hazra G C, Saha B N and Mandal B (2015) Assessment of heavy metals contamination in different crops grown in long-term sewage-irrigated areas of Kolkata, West Bengal, India Environ Monit Assess 187 1-9 (Article ID 4087)
Saha S, Saha B N, Pati S, Pal B and Hazra G C (2017) Agricultural use of sewage sludge in India: benefits and potential risk of heavy metals contamination and possible remediation options – a review Int J Environ Tech Manag 20 183-199
Silva J G D, de Carvalho J J, da Luz J M R and da Silva J E C (2016) Fertigation with domestic wastewater: uses and implications Afr J Biotechnol 15 806-815
Singh R P and Agrawal M (2010a) Variations in heavy metal accumulation, growth and yield of rice plants grown at different sewage sludge amendment rates Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 73 632–641
Tessier A, Campbell P G C and Bisson M (1979) Sequential extraction procedure for the speciation of particular trace metals Anal Chem 51 844-850
Yuan X, Huang H, Zeng G, Li H, Wang J, Zhou C, Zhu H, Pei X, Liu Z and Liu Z (2011) Total concentrations and chemical speciation of heavy metals in liquefaction residues of sewage sludge Bioresour Technol 102 4104-4110
Zaleckas E, Paulauskas V and Sendžikienė E (2013) Fractionation of heavy metals in sewage sludge and their removal using low-molecular-weight organic acids J Environ Eng Landsc Manage 21 189-198
Research Papers