Mixed Agricultural Pollutant Mitigation Using Woodchip/Pea Gravel and Woodchip/Zeolite Permeable Reactive Interceptors

  • Tristan G. Ibrahim
  • Alexis Goutelle
  • Mark G. Healy
  • Raymond Brennan
  • Patrick Tuohy
  • James Humphreys
  • Gary Lanigan
  • Jade Brechignac
  • Owen FentonEmail author


Dairy soiled water (DSW) is water from concreted areas, hard stand areas and holding areas for livestock that has become contaminated by livestock faeces or urine, chemical fertilisers and parlour washings. Losses of DSW occur as point (e.g. storage, pivot irrigators) and diffuse losses (e.g. during or shortly after land application). The concept of a permeable reactive interceptor (PRI), comprising a denitrifying bioreactor woodchip cell to convert nitrate (NO3 ) to dinitrogen (N2) gas and an adsorptive media cell for phosphorus (P) and ammonium (NH4 +) mitigation, attempts to simultaneously treat mixed pollutants. This study is the first attempt to test this concept at laboratory-scale. Washing of woodchip media prior to PRI operation produced low NO3 but high NH4 +, dissolved reactive P (DRP) and dissolved organic carbon losses. Dairy soiled water was then treated in replicated PRIs containing woodchip in combination with zeolite or gravel compartments. In general, all PRIs were highly efficient at reducing NO3 , NH4 +, DRP, dissolved unreactive phosphorus (DUP) and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) from an influent water replicating DSW. Longitudinal and hydrochemical PRI profiles, as well as zeolite batch experiments, showed that woodchip can both enhance NO3 reduction and adsorb nutrients. Since woodchip is likely to become saturated, it is important to place the reactive media cell further into the sequence of treatment. Even though the majority of the dissolved nutrients were mitigated, the PRIs also emitted greenhouse gases, which would need further remediation sequences.


Permeable reactive interceptor Nitrogen, phosphorus Ammonium Agriculture 



This research was supported by the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine under the Project 11/S/152 Improving the productivity of heavy wet grassland for delivery of Food Harvest 2020. The authors would like to thank all staff at Teagasc, Johnstown Castle, Wexford, Ireland for any help given during the duration of the laboratory experiment.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tristan G. Ibrahim
    • 1
  • Alexis Goutelle
    • 2
  • Mark G. Healy
    • 3
  • Raymond Brennan
    • 3
  • Patrick Tuohy
    • 4
  • James Humphreys
    • 4
  • Gary Lanigan
    • 5
  • Jade Brechignac
    • 6
  • Owen Fenton
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Sustainable Land and SoilsDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural AffairsLondonUK
  2. 2.Elève ingénieur agronome Montpellier SupAgroMontpellierFrance
  3. 3.Civil EngineeringNational University of Ireland GalwayGalwayIreland
  4. 4.Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, TeagascFermoyIreland
  5. 5.Teagasc, Environment Research CentreJohnstown CastleIreland
  6. 6.ENSAIAVandœuvre-lès-NancyFrance

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