United States
Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Water, Washington, D.C.
Region 3, Philadelphia, PA
EPA 832-R-00-009
September 2000
    Poland Biosolids Smelter Waste Reclamation

 ^fjhis brochure describes the background, methodology,
  m  results, and benefits of a unique biosolids remediation
      project that occurred in Poland from 1994 through 1999.
The project was sponsored and coordinated by the U.S. Agency for
International Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency. By applying a mixture of biosolids and waste lime to some
highly toxic smelter and coal waste piles, the project developed an
inexpensive technique to revegetate previously barren land. The
vegetation now greatly reduces the amount of contaminated runoff
and dust from these piles, which was a major health risk in the

Background and Problem
The Upper Silesia region, where this project
took place, is located in southwestern Poland.
The city of Katowice is the political center of
the region, which encom passes 14 cities, and
is home to over three million people. The
region is rich in coal, zinc, lead, and other
metals. This has made it an ideal center for
the country’s heavy industry and mining.
However, this industrial activity has taken its
toll on the local environment. In communist
times the environment was sacrificed for eco-
nomic gain. Waterways were too toxic for
any aquatic life, and the sky was often dark-
ened by stack emissions.
Massive smelter
and coal waste
piles dot the land-
scape of Upper
Silesia. Over 96
million tons of
mining wastes were
deposited in the
area over the last
century. It is esti-
mated that over
90% of the solid
waste material produced by the heavy indus-
try and mining sector in Poland been de-
posited on the 2% of Poland that is encom-
passed by the Upper Silesia region. In this
small area there are several thousand acres of
waste piles that require remediation. Most of
these piles are barren and are phytotoxic,
which prevents revegetation, both natural and
artificial. In addition, these piles typically
contain high levels of heavy metals, which
pose a health risk to the surrounding commu-
nities. The waste piles are often located in
heavily populated areas, and without any
vegetation covering the piles, they are suscep-
tible to water and wind erosion. Dust parti-
cles enter the air and are found in high con-
centrations in the nearby houses and on local
soils where produce is grown. Children in the
area have shown elevated lead levels in their

Since the fall of Communism in 1989, new
laws and regulations have been enacted to
protect and restore the environment. Progress
has been made with advances such as the
installation of stack emission scrubbers and
the construction of wastewater treatment
plants. However, intense economic and em-
ployment pressures have hindered environ-
mental efforts. Any plan for remediating the
waste piles would need to be inexpensive.
Past efforts to reclaim similar waste piles in
Poland included covering them with topsoil.
This approach is extremely expensive, since
the topsoil must be excavated and transported
from other areas, and was often not effective
on the highly contaminated waste piles of
Upper Silesia. One potential alternative for
reclaiming waste piles involves the use of
bibsolids (treated sewage sludge) produced by
wastewater treatment plants.
Orzel Bialy smelter waste pile in 1994, before
remediation efforts began.
The amount of biosolids available in the area
has been increasing rapidly. In the past year
alone the amount of biosolids produced in
Silesia has more than doubled. Over the past
ten years about 3,000 wastewater treatment
plants have been built in Poland. In 1990, it
was estimated that only 60% of the municipal
wastewater flows in the country received any
treatment. Of these, the majority only re-
ceived primary treatment. New plants utiliz-
ing activated sludge and other more advanced
treatment processes are being constructed
rapidly. The massive increased volume of
biosolids generated by these treatment plants
was becoming a serious management problem
for the treatment plants. However, it also
created a potential opportunity for use in re-
claiming waste piles.

Between 1994 and 1999 a team of scientists
from the United States and Poland worked
together to examine the feasibility of utilizing
biosolids from local wastewater treatment
plants and lime from mine water treatment to
revegetate several different types of lead/zinc
smelter waste piles. The biosolids study was
part of a larger environmental effort named
“Project Silesia.” Funding was provided by
the U.S. Agency for Interna-
tional Development and the
project was coordinated by the
U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency. Although biosolids
have been used for rernediation
of polluted sites in the past,
they have never been tested on
such highly contaminated sites.
The project team included U.S.
scientists from EPA, USDA
and Virginia Tech as well as
Polish scientists from the Insti-
Orzel Bialy
tute of Soil and Plant Cultiva-
tion in Pulawy, Poland, and the
Center for Research and Control of the Envi-
ronment in Katowice, Poland. The team
based its work in part on previous work in-
volving the use of biosolids at the Palmerton,
PA Superfund site. The goal of the project
was to provide guidelines for the effective
and inexpensive use ofbiosolids in stabilizing
highly contaminated waste piles.
Two sites were chosen comprising smelter
wastes from a Doerschel furnace and a Welz
smelting process. The site covered a total of
2 hectare, all of which was barren of vegeta-
tion. Before installation of the experiment, it
was important to assess the exact chemical
and structural nature of the waste piles. Sam-
pies from over 160 grid points (from 0-5 and
20 - 25 cm) were collected from a 10 m
square and analyzed for pH, potential acidity,
electrical conductivity, and for total S, Zn,
Cd, and Pb. The Doerschel wastes showed
much higher average levels of total and water
soluble metals and a lower pH (Table 1).
smelter waste site in 1996.

Table 1. Chemical Properties of Waste Samples before (1994) and after (1995) Amendment
(Total)/So luble
Zinc (mg/kg)
Lead (mg/kg)
p t- I
(30,900) 343
(540) 17.6
(7,900) 1.8
Doersche l
(75,000) 1,670
(2,310) 108
(23,820) 5.4
Based on these findings, test plots for deter-
mining salt/metal tolerant grasses were estab-
lished in a 90 day greenhouse trial. Nine of
the most tolerant grasses were selected for use
in the study.
Lime was necessary to suppress mobility and
plant uptake of heavy metal ions which would
otherwise cause phytotoxicity. It was deter-
mined that calcium carbonate alone would not
be sufficient to suppress metal mobility, so
calcium oxide would also be necessary, par-
ticularly on the Doerschel wastes. Calcium
oxide is much more efficient at raising pH
and reducing metal solubility and mobility,
but eventually transforms into calcium car-
bonate, so it was nOt clear how this would
affect the sites in the long term. The lime
used on the sites was a byproduct of mine
water treatment.
One half of each site was left as a control.
The other halves were graded and treated with
an application of biosolids and lime:
• The Welz wastes received 30 Mg/ha (dry
tons/ha) of CaCO 3 and 1.5 Mg/ha CaO
and the Doerschel wastes received 30
Mg/ha of CaCO 3 and 15 Mg/ha CaO.
Biosolids were applied on top of the lime
at 0, 150, and 300 Mglha to 1/3 of each
test area.
• The lime and biosolid amendments were
then incorporated with a chisel plow.
Higher biosolid amendments were added
in steps, interspersed with plowing, to
ensure appropriate incorporation.
• Seeding with the metal- arid salt- tolerant
grasses occurred in the fall of 1994.
Before treatment and after each growing sea-
son a monitoring program was conducted to

measure above-ground biomass, metal content
in plants, and changes in waste chemical
properties, including pH, metal solubility, and
Vegetation was established on 85% of the
Weiz area in the spring of 1995 despite the
high levels of water soluble metals (Table 1).
However, vegetation did not establish on the
Doerschel area in 1995. This failure was
most likely due to the high salinity and high
metal toxicity due to the elevated levels of
soluble zinc and cadmium. High compaction
and cementation of the Doerschel wastes may
also have contributed. Calcium carbonate
(CaCO 3 ) apparently was not effective in rais-
ing pH and reducing metal mobility. Labora-
tory experiments showed that additional
amounts of calcium carbonate had little effect.
Calcium oxide (CaO), however, was very
effective in raising pH and reducing metal
mobility. This effect probably only lasts for
the short term, though, since CaO did not
have much effect on pH or metal mobility in
the field plots after one year.
The Doerschel waste area was retreated in
1995 with a 15 cm cap of lime (CaO +
CaCO 3 ) and 300 Mg/ha biosolids. The sludge
was incorporated into the top of the lime cap
with a chisel plow, and was seeded with same
grasses used in 1994. This resulted in 75 to
80% vegetation cover by the spring of 1996
with little evidence of metal toxicity. Figure
1 shows standing biomass yields at the two
sites from 1995 through 1997.
Plant roots only penetrated through the first 2
cm of the underlying waste material at the
Doerschel site, indicating that on highly toxic
sites, the ability of plants to withstand a long
summer drought may be diminished. This
will be a subject for future study. Plant roots
on the Welz wastes, however, penetrated to a
depth of 10 to 20 cm, and legumes and native
herbaceous and woody species had begun to
grow on the site by 1996, supporting the hy-
pothesis that the treatment was effective in
providing support for long term plant growth.
Heavy metals were present in plant tissues, as
would be expected, but were stable over time.
Figure 1. Total Mean Biomass Yield
W elz
The results of a feeding study conducted with
young cattle to measure the extent of metal

(Pb, Cd and Zn) transfer to meat and organs
from hay harvested from the reclamation site
indicated that forage grown on the highly
contaminated sites reclaimed with time and
biosolids posed no particular risk to cattle.
Benefits and Conclusions
This project was highly successful and can
serve as a model for remediating similar sites
in the region and around the world including
the United States. The project demonstrated
that biosolids can be effectively used to help
revegetate highly toxic smelter wastes as an
alternative to traditional methods such as
topsoiling. High concentrations of soluble
metals can be effectively reduced by the addi-
tion of appropriate forms and doses of lime.
Used in combination, biosolids and liming
can create conditions suitable for effectively
revegetating highly toxic smelter waste with
grass species and cultivars selected for their
resistence to metal toxicity, while limiting the
movement of metals into the terrestrial
ecosystem that becomes established on the
reclaimed site.
Based on the results, the scientists recom-
mend a one time application of lime and bio-
solids of 75 to 150 Mg/ha and identified a
list of the most acid/salt tolerant grass spe-
cies and cultivars for use in seeding mix-
tures. The exact amounts of amendments
and seeding mixtures should be based on a
Native woody species can be seen returning to the Orzel Bialy smelter waste site in this 1999 photograph.

detailed survey of the chemical properties of
the waste at the site. For heavily contami-
nated sites, such as the Doerschel site, a lime
cap with a high percentage of calcium oxide
may be needed, in addition to higher
amounts of biosolids (300 Mg/ha), to ensure
the effective establishment of vegetation. It
will be several years, however, before the
group can finalize its application guidelines.
Some of the benefits of this remediation ap-
proach are:
It is relatively inexpensive compared to
conventional techniques and it is very
effective. Covering smelter waste piles
with topsoil requires that soil be
removed from land somewhere else, at
greater expense and environmental dam-
• Lime can often be acquired
inexpensively, as in this ease, where it
was the byproduct of mine water treat-
• Compared to using topsoil, the combina-
tion of biosolids and lime can achieve a
more effective remediation of areas con-
taminated with heavy metals by reduc-
ing metal solubility.
• This approach provides an environmen-
tally safe and beneficial usc of biosolids
in an area that is seeing a dramatic in-
crease in the number of wastewater
treatment plants and an associated in-
crease in biosolids production.
• The vegetative cover on the waste piles
reduces wind and water erosion of
metal-rich dusts and the associated med-
ical risks from inhalation and ingestion.
• This approach decreases erosion and
run-off contamination of surface waters.
• Provides improved aesthetics for the
communities surrounding these waste
Demonstration or operational projects in-
volving similar approaches to in-situ
remediation of contaminated smelter and
mine wastes have been established at a num-
ber of locations in the U.S., including
Superfund sites near Palmerton, PA;
Kellogg/Coeur d’Alene (Bunker Hill), ID;
Leadvil le, CO; and Joplin, MO. For more
information on several of these sites visit the
“Recent Research” listings posted on the
web site prepared by Dr. C. L. Henry and S.
L. Brown at the University of Washington
at http://faeulty.washington.edu /clh .

For more information, contact any of the
following project team members:
Mr. Kenneth Pantuck, Project Manager
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Philadelphia, PA, Region 111
tel: (215) 814-5769
fax: (215) 814-2318
e-mail: pantuck.kenneth@epa.gov
Dr. W. Lee Daniels, Professor
Department of Crop and Soil Environmental
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State Univ.
Blacksburg, VA
tel: (540) 231-7175
fax: (540) 231-7630
e-mail: wdaniels@vt.edu
Dr. Tomasz Stuczynski, Department Head
Department of Soil Sciences and Land Con-
Instytut Uprawy Nawozenia I
Gleboznawstwa (lUNG)
Institute of Soil Science and Plant
Pulawy, Poland
tel: 48-831-3421
fax: 48-831-4537
e-mail: ts iung.pu1awy.pl
Mr. Robert l3astian, Senior Environmental
Office of Wastewater Management
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, DC
tel: (202) 260-7378
fax: (202) 260-0116
e-mail: bastian.robert epa.gov
Dr. Rufus Chaney, Senior Research
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Research Services
Beltsville, MD
tel: (301) 504-8324
fax: (301) 504-5048
e-mail: rchanney asrr.arsusda.gov
Dr. Franciszek Pistelok, Deputy Director
Osrodek Badan I Kontroli Srodowiska
Center for Research and Control of the En-
vi ronment
Katowice, Poland
tel: 48-32-599-616
fax: 48-32-597-030