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Assessing effects of aerobic and anaerobic conditions on phosphorus sorption and retention capacity of water treatment residuals

Oliver, Ian W., Grant, Cameron D., Murray, Robert S.
Journal of environmental management 2011 v.92 no.3 pp. 960-966
aerobic conditions, agricultural land, alum, anaerobic conditions, aqueous solutions, byproducts, chlorides, clarification, clay, drinking water, flocculants, organic matter, phosphorus, sorption, water holding capacity, water treatment
Water treatment residuals (WTRs) are the by-products of drinking water clarification processes, whereby chemical flocculants such as alum or ferric chloride are added to raw water to remove suspended clay particles, organic matter and other materials and impurities. Previous studies have identified a strong phosphorus (P) fixing capacity of WTRs which has led to experimentation with their use as P-sorbing materials for controlling P discharges from agricultural and forestry land. However, the P-fixing capacity of WTRs and its capacity to retain sorbed P under anaerobic conditions have yet to be fully demonstrated, which is an issue that must be addressed for WTR field applications. This study therefore examined the capacity of WTRs to retain sorbed P and sorb further additional P from aqueous solution under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. An innovative, low cost apparatus was constructed and successfully used to rapidly establish anoxic conditions in anaerobic treatments. The results showed that even in treatments with initial solution P concentrations set at 100 mg l⁻¹, soluble reactive P concentrations rapidly fell to negligible levels (due to sorption by WTRs), while total P (i.e. dissolved + particulate and colloidal P) was less than 3 mg l⁻¹. This equated to an added P retention rate of >98% regardless of anaerobic or aerobic status, indicating that WTRs are able to sorb and retain P in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions.