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Laboratory-Scale Investigation of Ferrihydrite-Modified Diatomite as a Phosphorus Co-precipitant

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The potential of ferrihydrite-modified diatomite as a phosphorus co-precipitant was investigated at a laboratory scale. Ferrihydrite-modified diatomite was demonstrated to effectively remove phosphorus from lake water as well as strongly bind phosphorus in sediment under anoxic conditions. Phosphorus removal from the lake water proceeded primarily through phosphorus adsorption onto ferrihydrite-modified diatomite and further phosphorus consumption by stimulated diatom growth. A total phosphorus removal efficiency of 85% was achieved when lake water was dosed with 250 mg/L ferrihydrite-modified diatomite; the residual total phosphorus concentration was 17.0 µg/L, which falls within the range for oligotrophic phosphorus levels. During a 30-day anoxic incubation period, total phosphorus concentrations in lake water treated with 400, 500, or 600 mg/L of ferrihydrite-modified diatomite slightly decreased and maximum total phosphorus concentrations remained below 15 µg/L. Addition of ferrihydrite-modified diatomite resulted in a marked increase in the iron-bound phosphorus fraction, a pronounced decrease in labile phosphorus and organic-bound phosphorus fractions, and stable aluminum-bound phosphorus, calcium-bound phosphorus, and residual phosphorus fractions in the anoxic sediments. Comparable iron-bound phosphorus concentration in the sediment treated by 400 mg/L of ferrihydrite-modified diatomite relative to that of the sediment treated by the combination of 400 mg/L of ferrihydrite-modified diatomite and alum solution at the concentration less than 532 mg/L indicated that ferrihydrite-modified diatomite exhibited a stable phosphorus-binding capacity when dosed at a similar amount. Ferrihydrite-modified diatomite had the potential to be used as an effective phosphorus co-precipitant.

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The research project was supported through an NSERC discovery research grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and an international research grant from China. The authors are grateful to Mr. D. Fisher, technologist at the University of Saskatchewan, for his assistance in the environmental laboratory.

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Correspondence to Jian Peng.

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Xiong, W., Peng, J. Laboratory-Scale Investigation of Ferrihydrite-Modified Diatomite as a Phosphorus Co-precipitant. Water Air Soil Pollut 215, 645–654 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-010-0506-x

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  • Ferrihydrite-modified diatomite
  • Phosphorus removal
  • Phosphorus release
  • Phosphorus co-precipitant