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Department of Biological Sciences


Over the past several decades, the value of drinking water treatment residuals (WTRs), a byproduct of the coagulation process during water purification, has been recognized in various environmental applications, including sustainable remediation of phosphorus (P)-enriched soils. Aluminum-based WTRs (Al-WTRs) are suitable adsorbent materials for P, which can be obtained and processed inexpensively. However, given their heterogeneous nature, it is essential to identify an easily analyzable chemical property that can predict the capability of Al-WTRs to bind P before soil amendment. To address this issue, thirteen Al-WTRs were collected from various geographical locations around the United States. The non-hazardous nature of the Al-WTRs was ascertained first. Then, their P adsorption capacities were determined, and the chemical properties likely to influence their adsorption capacities were examined. Statistical models were built to identify a single property to best predict the P adsorption capacity of the Al-WTRs. Results show that all investigated Al-WTRs are safe for environmental applications, and oxalate-extractable aluminum is a significant indicator of the P adsorption capacity of Al-WTRs (p-value = 0.0002, R2 = 0.7). This study is the first to report a simple chemical test that can be easily applied to predict the efficacy of Al-WTRs in binding P before their broadscale land application.

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