Nitrate removal in zero-valent iron packed columns

Paul Westerhoff, Jennifer James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

266 Scopus citations


Nitrate removal by laboratory and field continuous-flow zero-valent iron (Fe0) packed bed columns was evaluated for different influent water qualities (pH, dissolved oxygen (DO), nitrate concentration) and several months of operation (600-1500 bed volumes (BVs)). In contrast to previous batch experiments with Fe0 where nitrate was stoichiometrically converted to ammonium, only 70% of the applied nitrogen was recovered as nitrate, ammonium, or nitrite (<0.1mg/L) during shorter-term column tests (2-20BVs) and less than 25% of the applied nitrogen was recovered during longer-term field testing (500-1000BVs) at elevated nitrate levels (∼25mg N/L). Nitrate removal was accompanied by a pH increase, DO decrease, and soluble iron increase. During longer-term operation (500-1500BVs) iron and calcium precipitates were observed, by SEM and EDX analyses, to form in the packed columns. Precipitation led to cementation and reduction in permeability for the Fe0/sand media in the packed column. Different abiotic and microbial-mediated mechanisms may be involved during shorter- and longer-term operation of Fe0 systems and the role of iron precipitates should be further evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1818-1830
Number of pages13
JournalWater Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2003


  • Corrosion
  • Nitrate
  • Zero valent iron

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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