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The composition of palm oil mill sludge pH 4.2+0.09 was acidic while organic matter, 39.3+0.27, total N 31.2+001, total P 10.4+0.05 and EC 1.3+0.01 was high in the five locations. While the macronutrient N, in dumpsite 4 shows a decrease and dumpsite 1, 2 and 3 shows irregular pattern distribution. P in the dumpsites follows definite pattern, Ca shows irregular distribution along the dumpsites, K in dumpsites 1, 3 and 4 were higher in upper horizon and 2 and 5 shows irregular distribution of K and Mg in dumpsites 1 and 3 was high in the deeper horizons and 2, 4 and 5 shows irregular distributions among the profile. While bacteria occurrence higher frequencies, Klebsiella (12%), Pseudomonas pyocynes (11%), Streptococcus aureus (10%) while Streptococcus faecalis, micrococcus various and shiqellae (8%) followed by Escherichia coli and strephylococcus spidemidis (7%) Bacillus subtitis (5%) while salmonella typhi, pseudomonas aeroqiuosa and Bacellus polymaiza (4%) and fungi highest frequency was saccharomyces (95.65%) while the lowest in occurrence spororonyces sp, Tricophyton sp, Aspergillous terrus and Humicolla sp (4.34%). While micro-organism bacteria count in dumpsites 1, 2, 3 and 4 was 2.39x107+3.46x107, 1.76x107+1.20x107, 1.14x107+5.92x106 and 1.33x107+4.87x106 cfug-1 while control was 2.67x107+2.08x107 cfug-1 while fungi count of the dumpsite 1, 2, 3 and 4 was 1.50x107+1.18x107, 1.27x107+1.05x107, 9.90x106+9.15x106 and 7.48x106+1.75x106 cfug-1 respectively while the control was 9.33x106+5.69x106 cfug-1. The variability, irregular and definite pattern of the nutrients bacteria and fungi concentrations across the dumpsites of the studied areas could be as a result of high degradation of the plant’s fibres or palm oil residues in the palm oil mill sludge. 



1.1       Background of the Study

            Palm oil mill effluent (POME) is one of the major wastes from the oil palm industry and it has the most problematic environmental pollution potential among the palm oil mill wastes. It is the residual liquid waste product obtained after extraction of oil from the fruits of the oil palm (Orji, Nwokolo and Okoli 2006). Often, palm oil mill effluent (POME) is discharged indiscriminately into the environment, particularly on farm lands (Ogboghodo, Osemewota, Eke and Iribhogbe , 2001).

            Palm oil mill effluent discharged from an oil mill is objectionable and could pollute streams, rivers or surrounding land. Hartley (2004) and Orji et al. (2006) reported that soils where palm oil mill effluents were freshly discharged had very scanty microbial population and dynamics. The entire ecosystem changes when new materials are added to the soil, as microorganisms die off or move away from contaminants or pollutants. The soil microorganisms have enzymes which make them to show a variety of metabolites activity, that endures the permanence of element cycles in nature. The enumeration of microorganisms and assessment of the activity of soil enzymes provide an integrative measure of the biological status of the soil (Li, Zhang, Zhang and Chen, 2005).

            Palm oil is an edible plant oil derived from the pulp (Reeves and Weihrauch, 1999) of the fruit of the oil palm is the most productive oil producing plant in the world, with one hectare of oil palm producing between 10-35 tonnes of fresh fruit bunch (FEB) per year (Hartley et al., 2004 and Ma, 2000). The palm has a life of over 20years, but the economic life is 20-25 years.

            In Nigeria’s palm oil industry, most of the POME produced by small scale traditional operators undergo little or no treatment and are usually discharged in the surrounding environment. The POME sludge could pollute streams, rivers or surrounding land (Okwute and Isu, 2007). Consequently, river water turns brown, smelly and slimy, often push and other aquatic organisms get killed and local people are denied of the availability of local water sources for domestic uses and fishing (Ezemonye, Ogeleka and Okieimen, 2008).

            During processing, large quantities of palm oil effluents are discharged into the soil. This has been the practice of the people for decades, but little do the people know of the ameliorating effect of this effluent or waste on their soil. Studies have shown that the application of organic wastes (such as effluents, compost and sewage sludge) to soil increases plant growth, and that organic wastes contain considerable amounts of plant nutrients including macronutrients that benefits to plant growth (Macci, Masciandaro and Cecanti, 2009). However, since POME sludge is organic in nature, it may have tremendous effects on the supply of nutrient elements to soil. According to Odu and Mba (1991), inorganic fertilizers supply nutrient elements through microbial assistance but also help in the improvement of soil physical properties. The characteristics of palm oil mill effluent depend on the quality of the raw material and palm oil production processes in palm oil mills (Osemwota, 2010).

            Microorganisms found in the soil include bacteria, algae, fungi, actinomycetes, protozoa and viruses (Willey, Sherwood and Woolver, 2008), but bacteria constitute the basic mass of all soil microorganisms. They are characterized by high metabolic activity. Most soil bacteria characterized the ability to adhere to surface of the mineral molecules and to the soil colloids.

            Man’s industrial and economic activities in his immediate environment have brought about improved living conditions to him. However, these activities produce waste which inevitably get disposed on land and negatively shift the ecological balance thus threatening man’s life and health (Olorunfemi, Emoete, and Okieimen, 2008).

            The amount of wastewater sludge or better known as POME sludge generated during the production of crude palm oil is abundant. Statistics published in 2008 has shown that at least 44 million tons of POME was generated in Malaysia (Wu, Mohammad, Jahim and Anuar, 2010). It has been estimated that the production of 1 tonne of crude palm oil generates about 2.5-3.5 m3 of POME (Ahmad, Ismail and Bhatia, 2005; Jefferson, Kanakaraju and Meng Guan, 2016). In general, utilization of sludge in agriculture is considered as one of the best waste management options as it improves the soil’s aggregate stability, porosity and water infiltration rate, and supplies organic matter and major nutrients, such as N, P, K, Ca, and Mg to the soil (Torri and Lavado, 2008 ; Nwoko and Ogunyemi, 2010; Jefferson et al., 2016).

            In addition, Teoh and Chew (1983) have also reported that a mixture of soil and POME in a 1:5 ratio has yielded vigorous growth of cocoa seedlings. Another study has indicated that the application of fermented POME to soil increased the growth and yield of maize (Z. mays. L) (Nwoko and Ogunyemi, 2010).      

1.2       Significance of the Study

The study was carried out to utilize POME sludge for plant growth and as amendment for agricultural soils due to its high content of nutrients and organic matter. The POME sludge composition contain major macro nutrients and its application will improve soil productivity and increase the yield of crops. Despite the best attempts at POME sludge reduction, reuse and recovery, many POME sludge dumpsites continue to spring up. Hence, leachates of diverse composition are produced from these dumpsites especially after rainfall. The fact that POME sludge waste can cause and has caused environmental pollution and some are toxic to crops due to misuse and improper disposal of the sludge, this study help to utilized and recycle these POME sludge and proper disposal for reuse and for plant amendment and fertility assessment of the sludge.

1.3       Justification of the Study

            Although agricultural application of POME sludge is generally considered as valuable option in the management of waste, the toxicity effects of POME as a result of phenol and other organic acid in POME sludge which can accumulate in soils and plants, need to be addressed. Furthermore, excessive organic loads and nutrients in POME may also pollute water bodies upon direct discharge and reduce soil fertility (Mohammad, Alam, Md,  Kabbashi and Ahsan, 2012). Hence, it is important to study the potential risks of POME sludge following application on soil. 

1.4       Aim and Objectives of the study

The study was aimed at evaluating some macronutrients status in palm oil mill effluents dumpsite.

The objectives of this study were to:

(i)         Determine the composition of oil palm mill effluent sludge.

(ii)        Determine some physicochemical properties of soils in oil palm mill effluent sludge dumpsite.

(iii)       Identify some microorganisms associated with palm oil mill effluent sludge dumpsites.

(iv)       Evaluate the fertility level of soils of palm oil mill effluent sludge dumpsites.

(v)        Assess the relationship between some physicochemical properties of soils of palm oil mill effluent sludge sludge dumpsites and composition of palm oil mill effluent sludge sludge.

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