Characterisation of some South African water treatment residues and implications for land application

  • LW Titshall
  • JC Hughes


Land application of water treatment residue (WTR) the by-product from the production of potable water, is becoming the preferred method of disposal, as there are environmental concerns and increasingly high costs associated with other disposal options. However, before WTR can be applied to land, consideration needs to be given to their chemical and physical characteristics to determine potential impacts. Six WTR samples were obtained from five South African water treatment facilities (Faure Water Treatment Plant (two samples), Rand Water, Umgeni Water, Amatola Water and Midvaal Water Company). The Rand Water WTR was a CaO, FeCl3, long-chain organic polymer (LCP) residue with activated silica and CO2 being added. The Umgeni and Amatola Water WTRs were lime and LCP residues. The Midvaal Water WTR was an Al2(SO4)3.nH20, FeCl3, lime and LCP residue and the Faure WTRs were Fe2(SO4)3, activated charcoal, lime and LCP residues. These WTR samples were analysed for some physical (particle size distribution, particle density and plant available water) and chemical attributes (pH, electrical conductivity, cation exchange capacity, calcium carbonate equivalence, exchangeable acidity, extractable bases and metal cations, total and plant available nutrients, total elemental analysis and metal fractionation) and mineralogical properties, and their potential for application to land considered. The WTRs tended to be neutral to alkaline in pH, with low electrical conductivity. Generally, amounts of N, P and K were low, but some of the WTRs showed potential to supply other plant nutrients (Ca, Mg, S, Zn, Cu and Fe). Their physical characteristics were variable, showing a wide range in particle size distribution as well as plant available water. Heavy metal concentrations tended to be low, but Mn was elevated in some WTRs, especially in the Faure WTRs, which may lead to plant growth problems. Land application of these WTRs appears to be a feasible disposal option, but currently they are regulated by the ‘minimum requirements for disposal of hazardous waste\'. Delisting would firstly be required for land application and if then permitted by legislation, the application rates would need to be based on existing soil conditions, the characteristics of a particular WTR, and the proposed land use.

Water SA Vol.31 (3) 2005: pp.299-308

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eISSN: 0378-4738