Phosphorus Removal Structures as a Short-Term Solution for the Problem of Dissolved Phosphorus Transport to Surface Waters

  • Chad J. Penn
  • James M. Bowen


The general theory of P removal structures for treating dissolved P is presented and explained along with the four necessary components for any P removal structure. While P removal structures can take many different forms, these four components must be present for a P removal structure to be effective. These four components are (1) an effective PSM in a sufficient quantity, (2) containment of the PSM, (3) the ability to replace the PSM when necessary, and (4) passive drainage via gravity at sufficient flow rates suitable for the site. The general site requirements for location of a P removal structure are also presented along with a discussion of the many different applications of this technology. A demonstration is given on how to choose the most efficient locations for reducing dissolved P loads with a P removal structure. These concepts will be illustrated through the presentation and illustration of several different styles of P removal structures. For example, ditch filters, surface confined beds for runoff interception, subsurface tile drain filters, surface and blind inlets, “bio-retention cells”, etc. Last, we provide examples of how the P removal structure can be utilized for point sources such as municipal and domestic wastewater.


Phosphorus removal structures Phosphorus removal structure requirements Golf course filter Phosphorus hot spots Ditch filter Blind inlet Tile drain filter Bio-retention cell Modular box filter Pond filter 


  1. Adam, K., A.K. Sovik, and T. Krogstad. 2006. Sorption of phosphorus to Filtralite-P – The effect of different scales. Water Research 40: 1143–1154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agrawal, S.G., K.W. King, J.F. Moore, P. Levison, and J. McDonald. 2011. Use of industrial byproducts to filter phosphorus and pesticides in golf green drainage water. Journal of Environmental Quality 40: 1273–1280. doi: 10.2143/jeq2010.0390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arias, C.A., H. Brix, and N.H. Johansen. 2003. Phosphorus removal from municipal wastewater in an experimental two-stage vertical flow constructed wetland system equipped with a calcite filter. Water Science and Technology 48: 51–58.Google Scholar
  4. Bryant, R.B., A.R. Buda, P.J.A. Kleinman, C.D. Church, L.S. Saporito, G.J. Folmar, S. Bose, and A.L. Allen. 2012. Using flue gas desulfurization gypsum to remove dissolved phosphorus from agricultural drainage waters. Journal of Environmental Quality 41: 664–671. doi: 10.2134/jeq2011.0294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chavez, R.A., G.O. Brown, R.R. Coffman, and D.E. Storm. 2015. Design, construction, and lessons learned from Oklahoma bioretention cell demonstration project. Transactions of the ASABE 31: 63–71.Google Scholar
  6. Claveau-Mallet, D., F. Lida, and Y. Comeau. 2015. Improving phosphorus removal of conventional septic tanks by a recirculating steel slag filter. Water Quality Research Journal of Canada 50: 211–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dobbie, K.E., K.V. Heal, J. Aumonier, K.A. Smith, A. Johnston, and P.L. Younger. 2009. Evaluation of iron ochre from mine drainage treatment for removal of phosphorus from wastewater. Chemosphere 75: 795–800. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2008.12.049.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Feyereisen, G.W., W. Francesconi, D.R. Smith, S.K. Papiernik, E.S. Krueger, and C.D. Wente. 2015. Effect of replacing surface inlets with blind or gravel inlets on sediment and phosphorus subsurface drainage losses. Journal of Environmental Quality 44: 594–604. doi: 10.2134/jeq2014.05.0219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Groenenberg, J.E., W.J. Chardon, and G.F. Koopmans. 2013. Reducing phosphorus loading of surface water using iron-coated sand. Journal of Environmental Quality 42: 250–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. King, K., and J. Balogh. 2013. Reducing watershed scale phosphorus export through integrated management practices. Turfgrass and Environmental Research Online 12 (3): 9–10.Google Scholar
  11. Kirkkala, T., A.M. Ventela, and M. Tarvainen. 2012. Long-term field-scale experiment on using lime filters in an agricultural catchment. Journal of Environmental Quality 41: 410–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Klimeski, A., R. Uusitalo, and E. Turtola. 2015. Variations in phosphorus retention by a solid material while scaling up its application. Environmental Technology & Innovation 4: 285–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Koiv, M., M. Liira, U. Mander, R. Motlep, C. Vohla, and K. Kirsimae. 2010. Phosphorus removal using Ca-rich hydrated oil shale ash as filter material – The effect of different phosphorus loadings and wastewater compositions. Water Research 30: 1–8. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2010.06.044.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Liu, J., and A. Davis. 2014. Phosphorus speciation and treatment using enhanced phosphorus removal bioretention. Environmental Science and Technology 48: 607–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. McDowell, R., A. Sharpley, and W. Bourke. 2008. Treatment of drainage water with industrial by-products to prevent phosphorus loss from tile-drained land. Journal of Environmental Quality 37: 1575–1582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Penn, C.J., and J.M. McGrath. 2011. Predicting phosphorus sorption onto normal and modified slag using a flow-through approach. Journal of Water Resource and Protection 3: 235–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Penn, C.J., R.B. Bryant, P.A. Kleinman, and A. Allen. 2007. Removing dissolved phosphorus from drainage ditch water with phosphorus sorbing materials. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 62: 269–276.Google Scholar
  18. Penn, C.J., J.M. McGrath, E. Rounds, G. Fox, and D. Heeren. 2012. Trapping phosphorus in runoff with a phosphorus removal structure. Journal of Environmental Quality 41: 672–679.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Penn, C.J., J.M. McGrath, J. Bowen, and S. Wilson. 2014a. Phosphorus removal structures: a management option for legacy phosphorus. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 69: 51A–56A.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Penn, C.J., G. Bell, Z. Wang, J. McGrath, S. Wilson, and J. Bowen. 2014b. Improving the ability of steel slag to filter phosphorus from runoff. Turfgrass and Environmental Research Online 13 (5): 1–5.Google Scholar
  21. Penn, C.J., J. Bowen, J.M. McGrath, G. Fox, G. Brown, and R. Nairn. 2016. Evaluation of a universal flow-through model for predicting and designing phosphorus removal structures. Chemosphere 151: 345–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Shilton, A.N., I. Elmetri, A. Drizo, S. Pratt, R.G. Haverkamp, and S.C. Bilby. 2006. Phosphorus removal by an ‘active’ slap filter–a decade of full scale experience. Water Research 40: 113–118. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2005.11.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sibrell, P., and T. Kehler. 2016. Phosphorus removal form aquaculture effluents at the Northeast fishery center in Lamar, Pennsylvania using iron oxide sorption media. Aquaculture Engineering 72: 45–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sovik, A.K., and B. Klove. 2005. Phosphorus retention processes in shell sand filter systems treating municipal wastewater. Ecological Engineering 25: 168–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Szogi, A.A., F.J. Humenik, J.M. Rice, and P.G. Hunt. 1997. Swine wastewater treatment by media filtration. Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part B 32: 831–843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wang, Z., G. Bell, C.J. Penn, and J. Moss. 2014. Phosphorus reduction in turfgrass runoff using a steel slag trench filter system. Crop Science 54: 1859–1867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Weber, D., A. Drizo, E. Twohig, S. Bird, and D. Ross. 2007. Upgrading constructed wetlands phosphorus reduction from a dairy effluent using electric arc furnace steel slag filters. Water Science and Technology 56: 135–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chad J. Penn
    • 1
  • James M. Bowen
    • 2
  1. 1.USDA Agricultural Research ServiceNational Soil Erosion Research LaboratoryWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations