A Survey of Heavy Metals content of Soil and plants As Affected by Long-Term Application of Sewage Water. A Case Study
1 Field Crop Research Department, Agricultural Division, National Research Centre, Cairo, Egypt 12611
2 Independent Sludge and Water Expert, UK
3 Imperial College, Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, London, SW7 2BU, UK
As part of a four year study evaluating the practicability and value of sewage sludge use in Egypt, soil and plant surveys were carried out on a citrus plantation, irrigated with Cairo sewage since the 1920s, in order to evaluate the long-term accumulation of trace elements and heavy metals and their bioavailability. While total and DTPA soil concentrations correlated well, no relationship could be found between soil and plant tissue concentrations, despite elevated levels of heavy metals in the soil. Study of long-term contamination of soil with potentially toxic elements (PTEs) has not demonstrated a potential risk to crop quality and yield or human health from the slow accumulation of PTEs in sludge-treated agricultural soil. PTE concentrations in plant tissues remained low and within normal ranges despite significant increases in soil content after long-term irrigation with sewage effluent. Concentrations of PTEs in plant tissues were not related to total or DTPA extractable metals in contaminated soil. DTPA may not be a sufficiently reliable indicator of actual phytoavailability of trace elements in sludge-treated soil, although it is accepted that DTPA is widely used in nutrient diagnosis assessment. These data provide assurance about the minimal risk to the environment from trace elements and PTEs in sludge-treated agricultural soil, but a more detailed dietary analysis of Cd intakes under Egyptian conditions is recommended, following the approaches adopted in the UK and US for setting Cd soil limits or loading rates for this element.
Key words: DTPA extraction / citrus / Cu / Cd / leaf concentration / soil concentration / toxicity / Zn
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2014
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