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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Factors influencing physicochemical characteristics of faecal sludge in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Eliyan, Chea; Vinneras, Bjorn; Zurbrugg, Christian; Koottatep, Thammarat; Sothea, Kok; McConville, Jennifer


Comprehensive knowledge of faecal sludge characteristics is needed for sludge management planning, but it is lacking for the city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Thus, this study characterised physicochemical properties of faecal sludge from households in Phnom Penh and related these to sludge containment unit type, unit age, connectedness to the urban drainage network, type of wastewater captured, watertight containment units, number of users, and emptying practices. In total, 194 faecal sludge samples collected during containment unit emptying were analysed for physicochemical parameters. Information on containment units was collected in a survey of emptiers and users. Mean values of faecal sludge chemical parameters were found to be slightly lower than previously reported values for low-/middle-income countries, whereas physicochemical properties were within similar ranges. The main factor influencing organic matter content in faecal sludge was containment unit connection to the urban drainage network, whereas emptying practice and capture of only blackwater affected nutrient levels. The concentrations of nutrients and organic pollutants greatly exceeded Cambodian discharge standards for wastewater. This causes environmental impacts, so treatment is needed before discharge. The faecal sludge characteristics and influencing factors identified here can serve as a baseline for sanitation stakeholders planning faecal sludge management systems in Phnom Penh and similar cities.


blackwater; cesspit; low-income country; onsite sanitation; pollutant loading; septic tank

Published in

Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development
2022, Volume: 12, number: 1, pages: 129-140 Publisher: IWA PUBLISHING