Laboratory-Scale Evaluation of the Effects of Water-Filled Pore Space on Emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O, and N2 from Soil-Based Wastewater Treatment

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Microbial removal of C and N in soil-based wastewater treatment involves emission of CO2, CH4, N2O, and N2 to the atmosphere. Water-filled pore space (WFPS) can exert an important control on microbial production and consumption of these gases. We examined the impact of WFPS on emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O, and N2 in soil microcosms receiving septic tank effluent (STE) or effluent from a single-pass sand filter (SFE), with deionized-distilled (DW) water as a control. Incubation of B and C horizon soil for 1 h (the residence time of wastewater in 1 cm of soil) with DW produced the lowest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which varied little with WFPS. In B and C horizon soil amended with SFE emissions of N2O increased linearly with increasing WFPS. Emissions of CO2 from soil amended with STE peaked at WFPS of 0.5–0.8, depending on the soil horizon, whereas in soil amended with SFE, the CO2 flux was detectable only in B horizon soil, where it increased with increasing WFPS. Methane emissions were detectable only for STE, with flux increasing linearly with WFPS in C horizon soil, but no clear pattern was observed with WFPS for B horizon soil. Emissions of GHG from soil were not constrained by the lack of organic C availability in SFE, or by the absence of NO3 availability in STE, and addition of acetate or NO3 resulted in lower emissions in a number of instances. Emission of 15N2 and 15N2O from 15NH4 took place within an hour of contact with soil, and production of 15N2 was much higher than 15N2O. 15N2 emissions were greatest at the lowest WFPS value and diminished markedly as WFPS increased, regardless of water type and soil texture. Our results suggest that the fluxes of CO2, CH4, N2O, and N2 respond differently to WFPS, depending on water type and soil texture.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Water, Air, and Soil Pollution