Effects of natural organic matter on calcium and phosphorus co-precipitation

Hugo R. Sindelar, Mark T. Brown, Treavor H. Boyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Phosphorus (P), calcium (Ca) and natural organic matter (NOM) naturally occur in all aquatic ecosystems. However, excessive P loads can cause eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic conditions in these waters. As a result, P regulation is important for these impaired aquatic systems, and Ca-P co-precipitation is a vital mechanism of natural P removal in many alkaline systems, such as the Florida Everglades. The interaction of P, Ca, and NOM is also an important factor in lime softening and corrosion control, both critical processes of drinking water treatment. Determining the role of NOM in Ca-P co-precipitation is important for identifying mechanisms that may limit P removal in both natural and engineered systems. The main goal of this research is to assess the role of NOM in inhibiting Ca and P co-precipitation by: (1) measuring how Ca, NOM, and P concentrations affect NOM's potential inhibition of co-precipitation; (2) determining the effect of pH; and (3) evaluating the precipitated solids. Results showed that Ca-P co-precipitation occurs at pH 9.5 in the presence of high natural organic matter (NOM) (≈30mgL-1). The supersaturation of calcite overcomes the inhibitory effect of NOM seen at lower pH values. Higher initial P concentrations lead to both higher P precipitation rates and densities of P on the calcite surface. The maximum surface density of co-precipitated P on the precipitated calcite surface increases with increasing NOM levels, suggesting that NOM does prevent the co-precipitation of Ca and P.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-224
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Calcium
  • Co-precipitation
  • Natural organic matter
  • Phosphorus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • General Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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