Effect of Heavy Metals on Earthworm Activities During Vermicomposting of Municipal Solid Waste

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The effect of heavy metals on the activities of earthworm species Eudrillus eugineae was studied during vermicomposting of municipal solid waste (MSW) spiked with heavy metals. The activities of earthworms, in terms of growth and biomass production and number of cocoons produced, were monitored periodically, and the concentration of heavy metals in earthworms and substrates was determined at definite intervals. Laboratory-scale experiments were performed by mixing individual heavy metals in MSW. Copper, cadmium, chromium, lead, and zinc were selected for the study. The study concludes that heavy metals tend to accumulate in the body of earthworms; hence, the inherent concentration of heavy metals in the substrate before vermicomposting must be considered in view of composting of MSW and its application to soil. It was observed that copper and cadmium were toxic for the worms at 1.5 and 0.1 g/kg of the waste, respectively. The studies also suggest that earthworms are susceptible to the free form of heavy metals. Cadmium is the most toxic metal, followed by copper. Based on the investigation and observation, it was also found that earthworms should be separated from castings before the use of castings in soil amendments.

Keywords: absorption; biomass; castings; cocoons; contaminants; earthworms

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/106143007X220824

Publication date: February 1, 2008

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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