Heavy metal mobility in runoff water and absorption by eggplant fruits from sludge treated soil

George F. Antonious, Eric T. Turley, Frank Sikora, John C. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Sewage sludge addition to agricultural lands requires judicious management to avoid environmental risks arising from heavy metal and nitrate contamination of surface water and accumulation in edible plants. A field study was conducted on a silty-loam soil of 10% slope at Kentucky State University Research Farm. Eighteen plots of 22 × 3.7 m each were separated using metal borders and the soil in six plots was mixed with sewage sludge and yard waste compost mix (SS-YW) at 15 t acre-1, six plots were mixed with sewage sludge (SS) at 15 t acre-1, and six unamended plots that never received sludge were used for comparison purposes. Plots were planted with eggplant, Solanum melongena L. as the test plant. The objectives of this investigation were to: 1) assess the effect of soil amendments on the transport of NO3, NH4, and heavy metals (Cd, Cr, Ni, Pb, Zn, Cu, and Mo) into surface water; 2) investigate the effect of soil amendments on heavy metal bioavailability in eggplant fruits at harvest; and 3) assess chemical and physical properties of soil following addition of soil amendments and their impact on the yield and quality of eggplant fruit. SS-YW treatments reduced runoff water by 63% while plots incorporated with sewage sludge alone reduced runoff water by 37% compared to control treatment. The SS-YW treatments transported more mineral nitrogen (NO3-N and NH4-N) in runoff water than SS treatments. Total marketable yield (lbs acre-1) and number of eggplant fruits were greatest in SS-YW treatments. This response may be due to improved soil porosity, water, and nutrient retention of the soil amended with SS-YW mixture. Concentrations of heavy metals in soil amended with sludge were below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) limits. Chromium, Ni, Zn, and Cu were taken up by eggplant fruits but their concentrations were below the Codex Commission allowable levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)526-532
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health - Part B Pesticides, Food Contaminants, and Agricultural Wastes
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank KSU farm crew for maintaining the runoff plots and Soil Testing Laboratory at UK for soil and plant ICP analyses. This investigation was supported by a grant from USDA/CSREES to Kentucky State University under agreements No. KYX-10-03-37P & No. KYX-2006-1587.


  • Biosolids
  • Fruit quality
  • Soil conditioners
  • Yard waste

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Pollution


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