Phosphorus removal with by-products in a flow-through setting

J Environ Qual. May-Jun 2012;41(3):654-63. doi: 10.2134/jeq2011.0049.


Phosphorus (P) losses to surface waters can result in eutrophication. Some industrial by-products have a strong affinity for dissolved P and may be useful in reducing nonpoint P pollution with landscape-scale runoff filters. Although appreciable research has been conducted on characterizing P sorption by industrial by-products via batch isotherms, less data are available on P sorption by these materials in a flow-through context integral to a landscape P filter. The objectives of this study were to evaluate several industrial by-products for P sorption in a flow-through setting, to determine material chemical properties that have the greatest impact on P sorption in a flow-through setting, and to explore how retention time (RT) and P concentration affect P removal. Twelve materials were characterized for chemical properties that typically influence P removal and subjected to flow-through P sorption experiments in which five different RTs and P concentrations were tested. The impact of RT and P concentrations on P removal varied based on material chemical properties, mainly as a function of oxalate-extractable aluminum (Al), iron (Fe), and water-soluble (WS) calcium (Ca). Statistical analysis showed that materials elevated in oxalate-extractable Al and Fe and WS Ca and that were highly buffered above pH 6 were able to remove the most P under flow-through conditions. Langmuir sorption maximum values from batch isotherms were poorly correlated with and overestimated P removal found under flow-through conditions. Within the conditions tested in this study, increases in RT and inflow P concentrations increased P removal among materials most likely to remove P via precipitation, whereas RT had little effect on materials likely to remove P via ligand exchange.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium Sulfate / chemistry
  • Coal Ash / chemistry
  • Models, Chemical
  • Phosphorus / chemistry*
  • Time Factors
  • Water / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*
  • Water Purification / methods*


  • Coal Ash
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium Sulfate