Design irrigation rates for treated municipal wastewater effluent (MWE) are usually determined from nitrogen (N) mass-balances, in which the fraction (f) of the total N in the MWE that is lost to the atmosphere is commonly obtained from US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) tabulated (design) values: 0.15–0.25 for secondary-treated effluents and 0.1 for tertiary-treated effluents. In 2011 and 2012, f values from an N balance in a tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) hay field in Central Pennsylvania were quantified and compared to the USEPA design f values. The grass field was spray-irrigated with MWE (C:N ratio = 0.04–0.2; near neutral pH, and 70–87% of the MWE-TN was NO3–N) at a rate of ≤5-cm wk−1. Monthly N balances were calculated from April to September in the surface horizon of a Hagerstown soil. The f values of 0.05, 0.1, and 0.2 seemed appropriate for the months of May and June, August and September, and July, respectively. Positive fnb estimates and the logarithm of measured monthly N removal in the aboveground biomass (kg ha−1) were negatively correlated (R2 = 0.99 for monthly mean air temperatures ≥20 °C and R2 = 0.2 for monthly mean air temperatures <20 °C). The study’s results suggest that existing design f values are likely less applicable especially due to the biological N-removal processes currently present in many wastewater treatment plants needing to meet effluent N limits. Thus, more studies to determine empirical f values in effluent irrigation are needed to refine design f values.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Soil Science