Comparison of low-cost and engineered materials for phosphorus removal from organic-rich surface water

Treavor H. Boyer, Amar Persaud, Poulomi Banerjee, Pedro Palomino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Excess phosphorus (P) in lakes and rivers remains a major water quality problem on a global scale. As a result, new materials and innovative approaches to P remediation are required. Natural materials and waste byproduct materials from industrial processes have the potential to be effective materials for P removal from surface water. Advantages of natural and waste byproduct materials include their low-cost, abundant supply, and minimal preparation, especially compared with engineered materials, such as ion exchange resins and polymeric adsorbents. As a result, natural and waste byproduct materials are commonly referred to as low-cost materials. Despite the potential advantages of low-cost materials, there are critical gaps in knowledge that are preventing their effective use. In particular, there are limited data on the performance of low-cost materials in surface waters that have high concentrations of natural organic matter (NOM), and there are no systematic studies that track the changes in water chemistry following treatment with low-cost materials or compare their performance with engineered materials. Accordingly, the goal of this work was to evaluate and compare the effectiveness of low-cost and engineered materials for P removal from NOM-rich surface water. Seven low-cost materials and three engineered materials were evaluated using jar tests and mini-column experiments. The test water was a surface water that had a total P concentration of 132-250 μg P/L and a total organic carbon concentration of 15-32 mg C/L. Alum sludge, a byproduct of drinking water treatment, and a hybrid anion exchange resin loaded with nanosize iron oxide were the best performing materials in terms of selective P removal in the presence of NOM and minimum undesirable secondary changes to the water chemistry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4803-4814
Number of pages12
JournalWater Research
Issue number16
StatePublished - Oct 15 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Alum sludge
  • Eutrophication
  • Ion exchange
  • Natural organic matter
  • Phosphate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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