The rise in aluminium demand in the world has significantly increased the generation of bauxite residue which occupies huge areas of land worldwide. Direct revegetation of residue storage areas has been unsuccessful because of the high alkalinity and salinity, and poor nutrient contents of the fine residue (red mud). This paper describes glasshouse and field experiments evaluating the potential use of sewage sludge as an organic ameliorant for gypsum amended red mud. The growth of Agropyron elongatum in red mud receiving gypsum (0 and 38.5 t ha-1) and sewage sludge (0, 38.5 and 77 t ha-1) amendment was assessed in a glasshouse study. Leachate and soil analyses revealed that gypsum was effective in reducing the pH, EC and ESP of red mud, while sewage sludge gave additional reductions in EC, Na and ESP. No evidence of any significant increases in heavy metal contents were observed in the leachates following sewage sludge amendment. However, soil Al contents were more available in red mud receiving only sewage sludge treatment. Sewage sludge amendment significantly increased dry weight yield and provided sufficient nutrients for plant growth except K which was marginal. No heavy metal accumulation was observed in Agropyron. Following that, a field experiment was performed having red mud amended with sewage sludge (38.5, 77 and 154 t ha-1) and gypsum (38.5 and 77 t ha-1) to evaluate their effects on soil physical properties of red mud. Sewage sludge significantly reduced soil bulk density (25%) and particle density (9%) and increased the total porosity of red mud (8%). Hydraulic conductivity also increased from 1.5 to 23 × 10-5 m s-1. Plant cover percentage and dry weight yield of Agropyron increased with an increase in gypsum and sewage sludge amendment. The results confirm that sewage sludge is effective in improving both soil structure and nutrient status of gypsum amended red mud. The use of sewage sludge for red mud revegetation provides not just an option for sludge disposal, but also a cost effective revegetation strategy for bauxite refining industry.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Waste Management and Disposal
- Economics and Econometrics