Influence of Anaerobic Mesophilic and Thermophilic Digestion on Cytotoxicity of Swine Wastewaters

Nedal Massalha, Michael Jacob Plewa, Thanh H. Nguyen, Shengkun Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recycling wastewater from animal production for fertilizers using anaerobic digestion (AD) is a common method to recover the nutrients in the digestate. However, the digestate toxicity is not well understood because AD is mainly designed for chemical oxygen demand reduction. This study determined the toxicity during AD and the controlling factors with the goal to improve digestate safety during farmer handling to reuse the nutrients. Thermophilic and mesophilic AD of two swine wastewater sources were studied. Mammalian cell cytotoxicity revealed that the effluent after thermophilic digestion was at least 69% more toxic than the mesophilic effluent, owing to higher ammonia and total organic carbon in the former. Ammonia accounted for >55% total cytotoxicity, and the organics of the thermophilic digestate were twice more toxic than those in the mesophilic digestate. Despite less toxicity contribution than the ammonia, the organics did demonstrate significant adverse effects on the thiol-mediated cellular protection mechanism. For swine wastewater nutrient recovery, converting ammonia to less toxic nitrogen forms could lower the toxic hazard of the AD digestate. With much less ammonia, the organics would be the remaining decisive factor for toxicity, which is favorably reduced using thermophilic AD over mesophilic. If the ammonia is not reduced, mesophilic AD would generate a less toxic digestate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3032-3038
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 3 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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