A Caltech Library Service

Digested sludge: delineation and modeling for ocean disposal


Faisst, William Karl (1976) Digested sludge: delineation and modeling for ocean disposal. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/j7nk-g480.


Experimental work was performed to delineate the system of digested sludge particles and associated trace metals and also to measure the interactions of sludge with seawater. Particle-size and particle number distributions were measured with a Coulter Counter. Number counts in excess of 1012 particles per liter were found in both the City of Los Angeles Hyperion mesophilic digested sludge and the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (LACSD) digested primary sludge. More than 90 percent of the particles had diameters less than 10 microns.

Total and dissolved trace metals (Ag, Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn) were measured in LACSD sludge. Manganese was the only metal whose dissolved fraction exceeded one percent of the total metal. Sedimentation experiments for several dilutions of LACSD sludge in seawater showed that the sedimentation velocities of the sludge particles decreased as the dilution factor increased. A tenfold increase in dilution shifted the sedimentation velocity distribution by an order of magnitude. Chromium, Cu, Fe, Ni, Pb, and Zn were also followed during sedimentation. To a first approximation these metals behaved like the particles.

Solids and selected trace metals (Cr, Cu, Fe, Ni, Pb, and Zn) were monitored in oxic mixtures of both Hyperion and LACSD sludges for periods of 10 to 28 days. Less than 10 percent of the filterable solids dissolved or were oxidized. Only Ni was mobilized away from the particles. The majority of the mobilization was complete in less than one day.

The experimental data of this work were combined with oceanographic, biological, and geochemical information to propose and model the discharge of digested sludge to the San Pedro and Santa Monica Basins. A hydraulic computer simulation for a round buoyant jet in a density stratified medium showed that discharges of sludge effluent mixture at depths of 730 m would rise no more than 120 m. Initial jet mixing provided dilution estimates of 450 to 2600. Sedimentation analyses indicated that the solids would reach the sediments within 10 km of the point discharge.

Mass balances on the oxidizable chemical constituents in sludge indicated that the nearly anoxic waters of the basins would become wholly anoxic as a result of proposed discharges. From chemical-equilibrium computer modeling of the sludge digester and dilutions of sludge in anoxic seawater, it was predicted that the chemistry of all trace metals except Cr and Mn will be controlled by the precipitation of metal sulfide solids. This metal speciation held for dilutions up to 3000.

The net environmental impacts of this scheme should be salutary. The trace metals in the sludge should be immobilized in the anaerobic bottom sediments of the basins. Apparently no lifeforms higher than bacteria are there to be disrupted. The proposed deep-water discharges would remove the need for potentially expensive and energy-intensive land disposal alternatives and would end the discharge to the highly productive water near the ocean surface.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Environmental Engineering
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Environmental Science and Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • McKee, Jack E. (advisor)
  • Morgan, James J. (co-advisor)
  • Brooks, Norman H. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:10 May 1976
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:04292014-113745649
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemTechnical Report
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8205
Deposited By: Benjamin Perez
Deposited On:29 Apr 2014 21:17
Last Modified:09 Nov 2022 19:20

Thesis Files

PDF - Final Version
See Usage Policy.


Repository Staff Only: item control page