The total phosphorus amount indicates how much phosphorus — as dissolved or particulate states — exists in a given wastewater sample. As an essential nutrient for plants and animals comprising aquatic ecosystems, the amount of phosphorus functions as a critical parameter to determine the health of waterways across the U.S. The slightest increase in phosphorus can activate a chain of undesirable outcomes in water bodies, including algal blooms and low dissolved oxygen, which can destroy certain aquatic species.
The challenge in monitoring total phosphorus in wastewater involves measuring concentrations as dilute as 0.01 milligrams per liter or less. For Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs), Improves monitoring can help determine the most effective wastewater phosphorus removal process to comply with new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. This blog post discusses different methods of monitoring total phosphorus in wastewater and why partnering with a wastewater engineer can help determine the best methods for your local POTW.
Conventional lab methods for monitoring total phosphorus in wastewater involve measuring orthophosphate – the amount of phosphorus available for chemical or biological reactions. Orthophosphate typically represents about 60-70% of the influent total phosphorus, with the remaining portion organically bound to effluent solids. A POTW's biological treatment processes further convert the latter portion into orthophosphate. The EPA-approved methods for measuring total phosphorus levels in wastewater include:
Samples for different types of phosphorus must be analyzed within prescribed timeframes to produce accurate results. For example, wastewater samples tested for orthophosphate require analysis within 48 hours of collection.
While conventional lab tests are the most frequently used methods of monitoring total phosphorus in wastewater, real-time monitoring can serve as a cost-effective strategy to optimize the Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal process.
In contrast to unreliable sensor probes or expensive composition analyzers, low-maintenance soft sensors are a viable alternative to improving online monitoring of total phosphorus during wastewater treatment operations. In a multistage Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor configuration, a hybrid soft sensor measures the level of phosphates and soluble Chemical Oxygen Demand in real time to optimize the process operations.
Irrespective of lab methods or real-time monitoring, accurately estimating the total phosphorus amount is the key to effectively managing the wastewater phosphorus removal process. A trusted team of experienced wastewater engineers can help you determine which monitoring process works best for your community's POTW.
Fehr Graham's professional engineers have provided communities with wastewater treatment solutions since 1973. We understand the struggles POTWs face while attempting to reduce phosphorus in wastewater and remain within their budgets. Methods like enhanced biological phosphorus removal are cost-intensive, while chemical phosphorus removal has a higher operations cost. Because no blanket remedy can monitor and remove phosphorus from wastewater, each facility requires an individualized solution.
The dedicated wastewater engineers at Fehr Graham have helped conduct phosphorous removal studies to understand the best approach to comply with revised total phosphorus limits. Some of our projects include:
From studies monitoring total phosphorus in wastewater, devising cost-effective strategies for phosphorus removal to securing financing for municipalities, we address the unique needs of POTWs and help improve the quality of life in communities.