Nutrient and dissolved organic carbon removal from natural waters using industrial by-products

Laura A. Wendling, Grant B. Douglas, Shandel Coleman, Zheng Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Attenuation of excess nutrients in wastewater and stormwater is required to safeguard aquatic ecosystems. The use of low-cost, mineral-based industrial by-products with high Ca, Mg, Fe or Al content as a solid phase in constructed wetlands potentially offers a cost-effective wastewater treatment option in areas without centralised water treatment facilities. Our objective was to investigate use of water treatment residuals (WTRs), coal fly ash (CFA), and granular activated carbon (GAC) from biomass combustion in in-situ water treatment schemes to manage dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nutrients. Both CaO- and CaCO3-based WTRs effectively attenuated inorganic N species but exhibited little capacity for organic N removal. The CaO-based WTR demonstrated effective attenuation of DOC and P in column trials, and a high capacity for P sorption in batch experiments. Granular activated carbon proved effective for DOC and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) removal in column trials, but was ineffective for P attenuation. Only CFA demonstrated effective removal of a broad suite of inorganic and organic nutrients and DOC; however, Se concentrations in column effluents exceeded Australian and New Zealand water quality guideline values. Water treated by filtering through the CaO-based WTR exhibited nutrient ratios characteristic of potential P-limitation with no potential N- or Si-limitation respective to growth of aquatic biota, indicating that treatment of nutrient-rich water using the CaO-based WTR may result in conditions less favourable for cyanobacterial growth and more favourable for growth of diatoms. Results show that selected industrial by-products may mitigate eutrophication through targeted use in nutrient intervention schemes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-72
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Dissolved organic carbon
  • Eutrophication
  • Water treatment
  • Water treatment residual


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