Phosphorus Sorption Materials (PSMs): The Heart of the Phosphorus Removal Structure

  • Chad J. Penn
  • James M. Bowen


This chapter is dedicated to the most important component of the P removal structure: PSMs, which are the component that actually removes the dissolved P. Phosphorus sorption materials are presented in great detail and explained. Many of these materials are by-products from various industries such as drinking water treatment, steel production, acid mine reclamation, energy generation, metal casting, wall board production, and bauxite mining. Other PSMs are manufactured for the sole purpose of removing dissolved P. The chemical and physical properties relevant to P removal structures are discussed in the context of choosing a suitable PSM for the situation, with a general characterization of several PSMs presented. This will include a discussion of the main mechanisms of P removal by PSMs and the implications of those mechanisms on design. Specifically, the influence of retention time and inflow P concentration on P removal by different types of PSMs are discussed in detail. The reader will clearly understand how the retention time and the inflow P concentration can have a dramatic impact on the design of a site-specific P removal structure. The common “paradox of PSMs” is presented: usually PSMs with the greatest ability to adsorb P tend to conduct water poorly (i.e. low hydraulic conductivity), and vice versa. While there are some exceptions to this, the implications of this issue are explained with several solutions provided. In addition to a general guide in choosing a suitable PSM, the chapter concludes with a discussion on safety considerations of PSMs that originate as by-products, and the need to screen some materials for safety. Recommendations and thresholds for PSM safety screening are provided.


Phosphorus sorption material PSM Phosphorus sorption mechanisms Retention time Steel slag Drinking water treatment residuals Calcium phosphate precipitation Ligand exchange Phosphorus sorption material regeneration Slag treatment Phosphorus sorption material safety 


  1. Agyei, N.M., C.A. Strydom, and J.H. Potgieter. 2002. The removal of phosphate ions from aqueous solution by fly ash, slag, ordinary Portland cement and related blends. Cement and Concrete Research 32: 1889–1897.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker, M.J., D.W. Blowes, and C.J. Ptacek. 1998. Laboratory development of permeable reactive mixtures for the removal of phosphorus from onsite wastewater disposal systems. Environmental Science & Technology 1998 (32): 2308–2316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boujelben, N., J. Bouzid, Z. Elouear, M. Feki, F. Jamoussi, and A. Montiel. 2008. Phosphorus removal from aqueous solution using iron coated natural and engineered sorbents. Journal of Hazardous Materials 151: 103–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bourke, W.S., S. Bilby, D.P. Hamilton, and R. McDowell. 2005. Recent water improvement initiatives in New Zealand using melter slag filter materials. Conference proceedings from 47th New Zealand Water and Waste Association Conference, September 28th 2005, Auckland, New Zealand.Google Scholar
  5. Bowden, L.I., A.P. Jarvis, P.L. Younger, and K.L. Johnson. 2009. Phosphorus removal from waste waters using basic oxygen steel slag. Environmental Science & Technology 43: 2476–2481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brooks, A.S., M.N. Rozenwald, L.D. Geohring, L.W. Lion, and T.S. Steenhuis. 2000. Phosphorus removal by wollasatonite: A constructed wetland substrate. Ecological Engineering 15: 121–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chardon, W.J., J.E. Groenenberg, E.J.M. Temminghoff, and G.F. Koopmans. 2012. Use of reactive materials to bind phosphorus. Journal of Environmental Quality 41: 636–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Claveau-Mallet, D., S. Wallace, and Y. Comeau. 2011. Model of phosphorus precipitation and crystal formation in electric arc furnace steel slag filters. Environmental Science & Technology 46: 1465–1470. doi: 10.1021/es2024884.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. ———. 2013. Removal of phosphorus, fluoride and metals from a gypsum mining leachate using steel and slag filters. Water Research 47: 1512–1520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Collins, R.J., and S.K. Ciesielski. 1994. Recycling and use of waste materials and by-products in highway construction. Washington, DC: National Cooperative Highway Research Program Synthesis of Highway Practice 199, Transportation Research Board.Google Scholar
  11. Dobbie, K.E., K.V. Heal, J. Aumonier, K.A. Smith, A. Johnston, and P.L. Younger. 2009. Chemosphere 75: 795–800. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2008.12.049.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Drizo, A., C.A. Frost, J. Grace, and K.A. Smith. 1999. Physico-chemical screening of phosphate-removing substrates for use in constructed wetland systems. Water Research 33 (17): 3595–3602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Drizo, A., Y. Comeau, C. Forget, and R.P. Chapuis. 2002. Phosphorus saturation potential: A parameter for estimating the longevity of constructed wetland systems. Environmental Science & Technology 36: 4642–4648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Drizo, A., C. Forget, R.P. Chapuis, and Y. Comeau. 2006. Phosphorus removal by electric arc furnace steel slag and serpentinite. Water Research 40: 1547–1554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Drizo, A., J. Cummings, D. Weber, E. Twohig, G. Druschel, and B. Bourke. 2008. New evidence for rejuvenation of phosphorus retention capacity in EAF steel slag. Environmental Science & Technology 42: 6191–6197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dunets, C.S., Y. Zheng, and M. Dixon. 2015. Use of phosphorus-sorbing materials to remove phosphate from greenhouse wastewater. Environmental Technology 36: 1759–1770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Erickson, A.J., J.S. Gulliver, and P.T. Weiss. 2012. Capturing phosphates with iron enhanced sand filtration. Water Research 46 (9): 3032–3042.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Essington, M.E. 2004. Soil and water chemistry: An integrative approach. 1st ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.Google Scholar
  19. Eveborn, D., J.P. Gustafsson, D. Hesterberg, and S. Hillier. 2009. XANES speciation of P in environmental samples: An assessment of filter media for on-site wastewater treatment. Environmental Science & Technology 43: 6515–6521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Forbes, M.G., K.L. Dickson, F. Saleh, and W.T. Waller. 2005. Recovery and fractionation of phosphorus retained by lightweight expanded shale and masonry sand used as media in subsurface flow treatment wetlands. Environmental Science & Technology 39: 4621–4627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gallimore, L.E., N.T. Basta, D.E. Storm, M.E. Payton, R.H. Huhnke, and M.D. Smolen. 1999. Water treatment residual to reduce nutrients in surface runoff from agricultural land. Journal of Environmental Quality 28: 1474–1478. doi: 10.2134/jeq1999.00472425002800050012x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Geohring, L.D., T.S. Steenhuis, A.S. Brooks, M.N. Rosenwald, J. Chen, and V.J. Putman. 1999. Cost effective phosphorus removal from secondary wastewater effluent through mineral adsorption. Final report prepared for the Town of Willsboro, Essex County, NY. Essex County, NY: Lake Champlain Basin Program.Google Scholar
  23. Groenenberg, J.E., W.J. Chardon, and G.F. Koopmans. 2012. Reducing phosphorus loading of surface water using iron-coated sand. Journal of Environmental Quality 42: 250–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gustafsson, J.P., A. Renman, G. Renman, and K. Poll. 2008. Phosphate removal by mineral-based sorbents used in filter for small-scale wastewater treatment. Water Research 42: 189–197. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2007.06.058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hartikainen, S.H., and H.H. Hartikainen. 2008. Phosphorus retention by phogopite-rich mine tailings. Applied Geochemistry 23: 2716–2723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hedstrom, A. 2006. Reactive filter systems for small scale wastewater treatment. Vatten 62: 253–263.Google Scholar
  27. Hill, C.M., J. Duxbury, L. Geohring, and T. Peck. 2000. Designing constructed wetlands to remove phosphorus from barnyard runoff: A comparison of four alternative substrates. Journal of Environmental Science and Health. Part A, Toxic/Hazardous Substances & Environmental Engineering 35: 1357–1375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Johansson, L. 1999. Industrial by-products and natural substrata as phosphorus sorbents. Environmental Technology 20: 309–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Karczmarczyk, A., and A. Bus. 2014. Testing of reactive materials for phosphorus removal from water and wastewater—Comparative study. Annals of Warsaw University of Life Sciences – SGGW Land Reclamation 46: 57–67.Google Scholar
  30. Karczmarczyk, A., A. Baryla, and A. Bus. 2014. Effect of P-reactive drainage aggregates on green roof runoff quality. Water 6: 2575–2589. doi: 10.3390/w6092575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Klimeski, A., R. Uusitalo, and E. Turtola. 2014. Screening of Ca-and Fe-rich materials for their applicability as phosphate-retaining filters. Ecological Engineering 68: 143–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 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
  33. Kostura, B., H. Kulveitova, and J. Lesko. 2005. Blast furnace slags as sorbents of phosphate from water solutions. Water Research 39: 1795–1802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Li, Y., C. Liu, Z. Luan, X. Peng, C. Zhu, Z. Chen, Z. Zhang, J. Fan, and Z. Jia. 2006. Phosphate removal from aqueous solutions using raw and activated red mud and fly ash. Journal of Hazardous Materials B137: 374–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lindsay, W.L. 1979. Chemical equilibria in soils. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  36. Liu, J., and A. Davis. 2014. Phosphorus speciation and treatment using enhanced phosphorus removal bioretention. Environmental Science and Technology 48: 607–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Makris, K.C., and W.G. Harris. 2006. Time dependency and irreversibility of water desorption by drinking-water treatment residuals: Implications for sorption mechanisms. Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 294: 151–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Makris, C.K., W.G. Harris, G.A. O’Connor, T.A. Obreza, and H.A. Elliott. 2005. Physicochemical properties related to long-term phosphorus retention by drinking-water treatment residuals. Environmental Science and Technology 39: 4280–4289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 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
  40. Oguz, E. 2004. Removal of phosphate from aqueous solution with blast furnace slag. Journal of Hazardous Materials B114: 131–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Penn, C.J., and R. Bryant. 2006. Application of phosphorus sorbing materials to streamside cattle loafing areas. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 61: 303–310.Google Scholar
  42. Penn, C.J., R.B. Bryant, M.A. Callahan, and J.M. McGrath. 2011. Use of industrial byproducts to sorb and retain phosphorus. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 42: 633–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 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
  44. Penn, C., J. McGrath, J. Bowen, and S. Wilson. 2014. Phosphorus removal structures: a management option for legacy phosphorus. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 69: 51A–56A.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 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
  46. Pratt, C., A. Shilton, S. Pratt, R.G. Haverkamp, and N.S. Bolan. 2007a. Phosphorus removal mechanisms in active slag filters treating waste stabilization pond effluent. Environmental Science & Technology 41: 3296–3301. doi: 10.1021/es062496b.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pratt, C., A. Shilton, S. Pratt, R.G. Haverkamp, and I. Elmetri. 2007b. Effects of redox potential and pH changes on phosphorus retention by melter slag filters treating wastewater. Environmental Science & Technology 41: 6585–6590. doi: 10.1021/es070914m.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Richards, J.R., J.L. Schroder, H. Zhang, N.T. Basta, Y. Wang, and M.E. Payton. 2012. Trace elements in benchmark soils of Oklahoma. Soil Science Society of America Journal 76: 2031–2040.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Roseth, R. 2000. Shell sand: A new filter medium for constructed wetlands and waste-water treatment. Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A 35: 1335–1355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sakadevan, K., and H.J. Bavor. 1998. Phosphate adsorption characteristics of soils, slags and zeolite to be used as substrates in constructed wetland systems. Water Research 32 (2): 393–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 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
  52. Sibrell, P.L., and T.W. Tucker. 2012. Fixed bed sorption of phosphorus from wastewater using iron oxide-based media derived from acid mine drainage. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 223: 5105–5117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sibrell, P.L., G.A. Montgomery, K.L. Ritenour, and T.W. Tucker. 2009. Removal of phosphorus from agricultural wastewaters using adsorption media prepared from acid mine drainage sludge. Water Research 43: 2240–2250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Stoner, D., C.J. Penn, J.M. McGrath, and J.G. Warren. 2012. Phosphorus removal with by-products in a flow-through setting. Journal of Environmental Quality 41: 654–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ugurlu, A., and B. Salman. 1998. Phosphorus removal by fly ash. Environmental International 24 (8): 911–918.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. US Code of Federal Regulations. 2016. Title 40, Chapter 1, Subchapter D, Part 131. Online.
  57. USEPA. 1986. Quality criteria for water. U.S. EPA Rep. 440/5–86-001. Washington, DC: Office of Water Regulations and Standards.Google Scholar
  58. ———. 1994. Land application of biosolids. Online. Scholar
  59. ———. 2009. In National Primary Drinking Water Regulations & National Secondary Drinking Water Regulation, ed. O.O. Water. Washington, DC: Environmental Protection Agency.Google Scholar
  60. ———. 2016. Table of regulated drinking water contaminants. Online. Scholar
  61. 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
  62. Wei, X., R.C. Viadero Jr., and S. Bhojappa. 2008. Phosphorus removal by acid mine drainage sludge from secondary effluents of municipal wastewater treatment plants. Water Research 42: 3275–3284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Yaghi, N., and H. Hartikainen. 2013. Enhancement of phosphorus sorption onto light expanded clay aggregates by means of aluminum and iron oxide coatings. Chemosphere 93 (9): 1879–1886. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2013.06.059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zhang, W., G.O. Brown, D.E. Storm, and H. Zhang. 2008. Fly-ash-amended sand as filter media in bioretention cells to improve phosphorus removal. Water Environment Research 80: 507–516.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