We experimentally studied the occurrence of spontaneous self-heating of sludge after drying, to understand its nature, course and remediation. The sludge originates from primary and biological treatment of both municipal and industrial wastewater, the latter largely dominant (approx. 90% total organic carbon, mainly from local tanneries). Dried sludge is collected into big–bags (approx. 1.5m 3 ) and landfilled in a dedicated site. After several years of regular operation of the landfill, without any management or environmental issue, indications of local warming emerged, together with smoke and smelling emissions, and local subsidence. During a two year monitoring activity, temperatures locally as high as 80°C have been detected, 6–10m deep. Experiments were carried out on large quantities of dried sludge (∼1t), monitoring the temperature of the samples over long periods of time (months), aiming to reproduce the spontaneous self-heating, under different conditions, to spot enhancing and damping factors. Results demonstrate that air is a key factor to trigger and modulate the self-heating. Water, in addition to air, supports and emphasizes the heating. Unusual drying operation was found to affect dramatically the self-heating activity, up to spontaneous combustion, while ordinary drying conditions yield a sludge with a moderate self-heating inclination. Temperature values as well as heating time scales suggest that the exothermic process nature is mainly chemical and physical, while microbiological activity might be a co-factor.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.