Stability and maturity of thickened wastewater sludge treated in pilot-scale sludge treatment wetlands

Alexandros Stefanakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thickened wastewater activated sludge was treated in 13 pilot-scale sludge treatment wetlands of various configurations that operated continuously for three years in North Greece. Sludge was loaded for approximately 2.5 years, and the beds were left to rest for the remaining period. Three different sludge loading rates were used that represented three different population equivalents. Residual sludge stability and maturity were monitored for the last year. Sludge was regularly sampled and microbial respiration activity indices were measured via a static respiration assay. The phytotoxicity of sludge was quantified via a seed germination bioassay. Measurements of total solids, organic matter, total coliforms, pH and electrical conductivity were also made. According to microbial respiration activity measurements, the sludge end-product was classified as stable. The germination index of the final product exceeded 100% in most wetland units, while final pH values were approximately 6.5. The presence of plants positively affected the stability and maturity of the residual sludge end-product. Passive aeration did not significantly affect the quality of the residual sludge, while the addition of chromium at high concentrations hindered the sludge decomposition process. Conclusively, sludge treatment wetlands can be successfully used, not only to dewater, but also to stabilize and mature wastewater sludge after approximately a four-month resting phase.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6441-6452
Number of pages12
JournalWater Research
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011


  • Activated sludge
  • Maturity
  • Phragmites australis
  • Reed beds
  • Stability
  • Sludge treatment wetlands


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