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Fact sheet
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Land Application of Sewage

Sludge (Biosolids)*
#3: Different Types of Sewage Sludge
Uta Krogmann, Extension Specialist in Solid Waste Management & Lisa S. Boyles, Program Associate in Solid Waste Management

his fact sheet is designed to provide general infor- and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in additon
mation on and about the differences between sew- to undergoing additional treatment to stabilize and dis-
age sludge types, and how various types of sew- infect it. During stabilization and disinfection, patho-
age sludge can be used. Various terms used in this fact gens are significantly reduced (Class B) or reduced to
sheet are explained in the glossary on page 3. This fact below detection limits (Class A). For more information
sheet is intended to provide information without endors- about pathogens refer to the Rutgers Cooperative Exten-
ing any particular decision. sion (RCE) fact sheet FS958 Land Application of Sewage
Sludge(Biosolids), #8: Pathogens.

What is Sewage Sludge?

Types of Sewage Sludge
Sewage sludge is a by-product of the purification of
wastewater. In most cases, sewage sludge consists of the The type of sewage sludge will depend upon the stabili-
solids removed from wastewater by settling during the zation and disinfection method used. Final forms of
primary treatment and the excess bacteria which have sewage sludge that are modified for land application
digested the dissolved organic matter during the second- include:
ary biological treatment. This process of wastewater treat-
ment produces 1) treated water that can be discharged back ● liquid sewage sludge
into local bodies of water; and, 2) sewage sludge.
● advanced alkaline stabilized sewage sludge
The resulting sewage sludge has significant organic
matter content and contains macro- and micro-nutrients
● composted sewage sludge
essential for plant growth. Sewage sludge can also
contain contaminants such as heavy metals, organic
contaminants, and pathogens. However, before it can be ● pelletized sewage sludge
used for land application, sewage sludge must meet
limitations for contaminants established by the New Different types of sewage sludge have different properties
Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and common uses that can be found in the following table.

* The term biosolids is commonly used for sewage sludge that can be used beneficially. In this document we will use the more inclusive
term sewage sludge.
Different Types of Sewage Sludge and Their Characteristics

Liquid Advanced Alkaline Composted Pelletized


Properties 1-8% solids content Relatively dry; Relatively stable; Dry, flows well
significant liming humus-like

Stabilization and Aerobic digestion, Addition of lime Composting Drying sewage

Disinfection anaerobic diges- material such as sludge at high tem-
Method tion, or lime stabili- quick lime, hy- peratures
zation drated lime, or ce-
ment kiln dust

Common Use Nutrient source Mostly as a liming Soil amendment Specialty fertilizer
material mixes, sidedress

Pathogen In most cases Class A In most cases Class A

Reduction Class B Class A

Examples Meadowlife®, Bio- Sure Grow®, Cape Milorganite®,

Fix®, ECO LIME® Organic®, Soil Ocean Gro®

Mention or display of a trademark, proprietary product, or firm in text or figures does not constitute an endorsement
by Rutgers Cooperative Extension and does not imply approval to the exclusion of other suitable products or firms.

Regulations FS951 #1: Questions to Ask Before Considering

Application on Farmland
Anyone interested in using sewage sludge should consult FS952 #2: Regulations and Guidelines
the federal and state regulations and the RCE fact sheet FS954 #4: Guidelines for Land Application in Agriculture
FS954 Land Application of Sewage Sludge (Biosolids), FS955 #5: Heavy Metals
#4: Guidelines for Land Application in Agriculture care- FS956 #6: Soil Amendments and Heavy Metals
fully before use. For further information, refer to the RCE FS957 #7: Organic Contaminants
fact sheet FS952 Land Application of Sewage Sludge FS958 #8: Pathogens
(Biosolids), #2: Regulations.
Please contact your local county Cooperative Exten-
sion office, the Rutgers Publications Distribution Office
Conclusions or visit the RCE, Cook College Web site, http:// to obtain additional information
There are a variety of types of sewage sludge available for regarding the use of sewage sludge for land application.
use. They have a range of characteristics, which makes
each type useful for different purposes.
Additional Information USEPA. 1994. A Plain English Guide to the EPA Part 503
Biosolids Rule. EPA/832/R-93/003. USEPA, Office
Other fact sheet titles in this series include: of Wastewater Management, Washington, DC.

Advanced alkaline Process of blending sewage sludge with a high pH material, such as kiln dust
stabilization and quick lime. During the process, the material undergoes a chemical reaction
that pasteurizes the product by raising the pH to greater than 12 for 72 hours
or longer, while maintaining elevated temperature and air drying require-

Aerobic digestion The degradation of concentrated wastewater solids, during which aerobic
bacteria (bacteria which need the presence of oxygen) break down the organic
matter into mostly inert solids, carbon dioxide, and water.

Anaerobic digestion The degradation of concentrated wastewater solids, during which anaerobic
bacteria (bacteria which can not live in the presence of oxygen) break down
the organic matter into mostly inert solids, carbon dioxide, and methane.

Class A pathogen Pathogens in a sewage sludge are below detectable levels (40 CFR Part
reduction level 503.32(a)). For more information refer to the RCE fact sheet FS958 Land
Application of Sewage Sludge (Biosolids), #8; Pathogens.

Class B pathogen Pathogens in sewage sludge are detectable but crop and site restrictions are
reduction level used to allow environmental conditions (light, heat, drying) to reduce patho-
gen densities until risk of disease transmission is minimal. (40 CFR Part
503.32(b)). For more information refer to the RCE fact sheet FS958 Land
Application of Sewage Sludge (Biosolids), #8: Pathogens.

Lime stabilization Process of adding a sufficient amount of lime to sewage sludge to raise the pH
to 12 for 2 hours. This is done to substantially reduce the number and prevent
the re-growth of pathogenic and odor-producing organisms.

Primary Treatment The first major treatment in a wastewater treatment facility, in which heavy
particles settle out.

Secondary Biological The second step in most waste treatment systems in which bacteria digest the
Treatment dissolved organic matter of the waste.

Stabilization Treatment process that reduces pathogens and vector attraction in sewage

Vector attraction Methods that reduce the attractiveness of sewage sludge to vectors (flies,
reduction rodents) to reduce the potential for transmitting diseases.

© 2004 by Rutgers Cooperative Research & Extension, NJAES, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Desktop publishing by Rutgers-Cook College Resource Center Published: July 1999


Distributed in cooperation with U.S. Department of Agriculture in furtherance of the Acts of Congress on May 8 and June 30, 1914. Rutgers Cooperative Extension works in
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