Odorants and malodors associated with land application of biosolids stabilized with lime and coal fly ash

Yael Laor, Moshe Naor, Uzi Ravid, Pinchas Fine, Ilan Halachmi, Yona Chen, Rima Baybikov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Malodor emissions limit public acceptance of using municipal biosolids as natural organic resources in agricultural production. We aimed to identify major odorants and to evaluate odor concentrations associated with land application of anaerobically digested sewage sludges (Class B) and their alkaline (lime and coal fly ash)-stabilized products (Class A). These two types of biosolids were applied at 12.6 tonnes ha-1 (dry weight) to microplots of very fine clayey Vertisol in the Jezreel Valley, northern Israel. The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from the biosolids before and during alkaline stabilization and after incorporation into the soil were analyzed by headspace solid-phase microextraction followed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Odor concentrations at the plots were evaluated on site with a Nasal Ranger field olfactometer that sniffed over a defined land surface area through a static chamber. The odors emitted by anaerobically digested sewage sludges from three activated sludge water treatment plants had one characteristic chemical fingerprint. Alkaline stabilization emitted substantial odors associated with high concentrations of ammonia and release of nitrogencontaining VOCs and did not effectively reduce the potential odor annoyance. Odorous VOCs could be generated within the soil after biosolids incorporation, presumably because of anaerobic conditions within soil-biosolids aggregates. We propose that dimethyl disulfide and dimethyl trisulfide, which seem to be most related to the odor concentrations of biosolidstreated soil, be used as potential chemical markers for the odor annoyance associated with incorporation of anaerobically digested sewage sludges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1405-1415
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Environmental Engineering


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