Stormwater-borne pollutant export from turfgrass established on soils amended with composted domestic wastewater sludges

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The differences in pollutant export from identical land areas treated with fertilizer and/or composted domestic wastewater sludge (compost) were evaluated. Three plots were constructed with a Glenelg silty clay soil and seeded with Falcon fescue (Festuca 'Falcon'): Plot 1 received conventional fertilizer; Plot 2 received a combination of compost and reduced conventional fertilizer; and Plot 3 received only compost. Runoff was collected and analyzed for soluble orthophosphate as P, total soluble phosphorus as P, total phosphorus as P, soluble ammonia as N, soluble Kjeldahl nitrogen as N, total Kjeldahl nitrogen as N, nitrite plus nitrate as N, total suspended solids, chemical oxygen demand, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc, chromium, and iron. Compost was found to improve moisture retention in the soil and crop, sustain plant growth during excessive dry periods, improve the quality of the crop, reduce runoff, and reduce soil erosion. The export of all pollutants was reduced by the use of compost. The use of fertilizer in combination with the compost did not provide any observable benefit. Instead, the fertilizer provided excessive soluble orthophosphate, total soluble phosphorus, and oxidized nitrogen which were subsequently exported from the test plot. The increased export of soluble Kjeldahl nitrogen may have been caused by excess insoluble N from the fertilizer application, which may have reacted with the organic matter, forming soluble organic nitrogen. The use of compost as a soil amendment significantly reduced the pollutant export which, in turn, reduced the potential impact on receiving waters.