Trapping phosphorus in runoff with a phosphorus removal structure

J Environ Qual. May-Jun 2012;41(3):672-9. doi: 10.2134/jeq2011.0045.


Reduction of phosphorus (P) inputs to surface waters may decrease eutrophication. Some researchers have proposed filtering dissolved P in runoff with P-sorptive byproducts in structures placed in hydrologically active areas with high soil P concentrations. The objectives of this study were to construct and monitor a P removal structure in a suburban watershed and test the ability of empirically developed flow-through equations to predict structure performance. Steel slag was used as the P sorption material in the P removal structure. Water samples were collected before and after the structure using automatic samples and analyzed for total dissolved P. During the first 5 mo of structure operation, 25% of all dissolved P was removed from rainfall and irrigation events. Phosphorus was removed more efficiently during low flow rate irrigation events with a high retention time than during high flow rate rainfall events with a low retention time. The six largest flow events occurred during storm flow and accounted for 75% of the P entering the structure and 54% of the P removed by the structure. Flow-through equations developed for predicting structure performance produced reasonable estimates of structure "lifetime" (16.8 mo). However, the equations overpredicted cumulative P removal. This was likely due to differences in pH, total Ca and Fe, and alkalinity between the slag used in the structure and the slag used for model development. This suggests the need for an overall model that can predict structure performance based on individual material properties.

MeSH terms

  • Agrochemicals
  • Animals
  • Phosphorus / chemistry*
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*
  • Water Purification / methods*


  • Agrochemicals
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Phosphorus