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Title: Using a water treatment residual and compost co-amendment as a sustainable soil improvement technology to enhance flood holding capacity
Author: Kerr, Heather Catharine
ISNI:       0000 0004 7653 9889
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2019
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The recycling of clean wastes, such as those from the treatment of drinking water, has gained importance on the environmental agenda due to rising costs of landfill disposal and movement towards a 'zero' waste economy. More than one third of the globe's soils are degraded and as such policies towards determining soil health parameters and reversing destruction of the globe's most valuable non-renewable source are at the forefront of environmental debate. This thesis questions the opportunity for water treatment residual (WTR) to be used as a beneficial material for the co-amendment of soil with compost to improve the soil's flood holding capacity (Kerr et al., 2016), which includes functions such as the water holding capacity, hydraulic conductivity, soil structure and shear strength. Currently, water treatment residual is typically sent to landfill for disposal, but this research shows that the reuse of WTR as a co-amendment is able to improve the flood holding capacity of soils. This research crosses the boundary between geotechnical and geoenvironmental and provides a holistic approach to quantifying a soil from both perspectives. Iron based water treatment residual from Northumbrian Water Ltd was used in both laboratory and field trials to establish the effect of single WTR and a compost and WTR co-amendment on the water holding capacity (the gravimetric water content, volumetric water content, volume change of samples i.e. swelling and shrinkage), and the effect of amendment on the erosional resistance, hydraulic conductivity and shear strength compared to a control soil. A series of four trials were conducted to develop and establish a novel method to determine the water holding capacity, supplemented by standard geotechnical methods to determine the flood holding capacity. The use of x-ray computed tomography has provided accompanying information on the morphology of dried WTR and changes in the internal characteristics of amended soil between a dry and wet state. The amendment application rate ranges from 10 - 50%. Experiments have shown that the single amendment of WTR, compared to a control soil, yields significant increases in the hydraulic conductivity (by up to a factor of 28), increases the shear strength of soils at low testing pressure (25 kPa) by 129%, increases the maximum gravimetric water content by up to 13.7%, and improves swelling by up to 12% (but only at the highest amendment rate, 30%), increases the maximum void ratio when saturated by 11%, and reduces shrinkage by maintaining porosity by 14%. However the application of WTR as a single amendment has implications for the chemical health of the soil as it is highly effective at immobilising phosphorous as and such cannot not effectively be used as a soil amendment. The single application of compost yielded significant improvement in the water holding capacity (improving gravimetric water content by up to 34.7%, increasing the sample volume by up to 83.3%, and increased the void ratio by 8.2%), however this application reduces the hydraulic conductivity by up to 84.5% and the shear strength by 3% compared to the control soil. Co-amendment using compost and WTR (in two forms, air dried 80% solids and wet at 20% solids, as produced from water treatment works) improved the flood holding capacity of soils by retaining the structural improvements of amendment using WTR and the water holding capacity improvements of compost. Compared to the control soil, for co-amended soils the gravimetric water content was improved by up to 25%, the volume increased by up to 51.7%, experienced 13% less shrinkage and an 11.5% increase in maximum void ratio. The hydraulic conductivity was also improved by up to 475%, and shear strength was increased at both low and high testing pressures by to 53.8%. Taking into account these effects of co-amendment on essential soil functions that determines a soil's flood holding capacity (maximum gravimetric water content, volume change, resistance against shrinkage, void ratio (porosity), hydraulic conductivity and shear strength), the economical and environmental sustainability issues, the co-amendment of soil using compost and WTR may provide a solution to both recycling clean waste product and improving the quality of soil.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available