The analysis of heavy metals is a very important task to assess the potential environmental and health risk associated with the sludge coming from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). However, it is necessary to apply sequential extraction techniques to obtain suitable information about their bioavailability or toxicity. In this paper, a sequential extraction scheme according to the Standard, Measurements and Testing Programme of the European Commission was applied to sludge samples collected from ten anaerobic wastewater stabilization ponds (WSPs) located in southern Spain. Al, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Ti and Zn were determined in the sludge extracts by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry. In relation to current international legislation for the use of sludge for agricultural purposes, none of the metal concentrations exceeded maximum permitted levels. Overall, heavy metals were mainly associated with the two less-available fractions (34% oxidizable metal and 55% residual metal). Only Mn and Zn showed the highest share of the available (exchangeable and reducible) fractions (25-48%). © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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