Pivato, Alberto, Raga, Roberto, Vanin, Stefano and Rossi, Matteo (2014) Assessment of compost quality for its environmentally safe use by means of an ecotoxicological test on a soil organism. Journal of Material Cycles and Waste Management, 16 (4). pp. 763-774. ISSN 1438-4957

A research project was carried out to evaluate toxicological effects of compost addition to agricultural soil using the earthworm Eisenia foetida (Annellida) as a representative organism of the soil fauna. Moreover, the correlation between compost biochemical stabilization and toxicity at different phases of the composting process was assessed. Samples were collected from three composting plants at three different maturation levels (beginning of the composting process, intermediate compost after bio-oxidation, and mature refined compost). Two tests were performed: a standard chronic solid-phase test and an acute solid-phase test (developed originally by the authors). In the first test, the measured end-points were mortality, growth and reproduction; while in the second test earthworms’ behavior was evaluated. The chosen compost concentrations in soil ranged from 2.5 to 100 %, with the aim of obtaining the toxicological parameters (LC50) and to mimic real agricultural dosages for the lower concentrations. Results indicated an increase in compost toxicity with greater compost concentrations; in particular, agricultural compost dosage below 10 % showed no toxicity. Moreover, toxicity did not decrease during composting; intermediate compost showed the highest LC50 values. As a consequence, no correlation was ascertained between the results of ecotoxicological analysis and waste biochemical stability parameters during the composting process.

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