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Spatial and temporal variation of CO2 and CH4 emissions from a septic tank soakaway

Somlai, Celia, Knappe, Jan, Gill, Laurence
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.679 pp. 185-195
automation, carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide production, deaeration, diurnal variation, drying, environmental factors, greenhouse gas emissions, maritime climate, methane, methane production, septic systems, soil air, soil temperature, Ireland
CO2 and CH4 flux measurements over a septic tank soakaway located in a northern maritime climate (Ireland) were conducted for a period of 81 days using a multi-chamber automated soil gas flux chamber system with high spatial and temporal resolution. Overall median CO2 fluxes were 7.28; 6.40 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1 from the soakaway and control soil, respectively. Overall median CH4 fluxes were − 0.28; −0.67 nmol CH4 m−2 s−1 from the soakaway and control soil, respectively. While CO2 fluxes expressed strong diurnal variability driven by soil temperature, CH4 fluxes were less affected by environmental factors and effectively limited to the first few meters from the septic tank. However, localised CH4 degassing events were observed during drying conditions with up to 60-times higher fluxes compared to the overall median. The soakaway was found to be a net emitter of both CO2 and CH4, releasing a total of 7.327 kg CO2 yr−1 and 0.033 kg CO2Eq. yr−1, respectively. The apparent spatio-temporal heterogeneity of observed soil gas fluxes identified in this study emphasises the importance of integrating measurements with both high spatial and temporal resolution from on-site installations as engineered nature-based solutions.