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  • Writer's pictureDavid Bennett

Removing Phosphorus in Wastewater: Protecting Ecosystems and Drinking Water


Phosphorus removal from wastewater is a crucial step in ensuring the safety and health of the public, as well as protecting the environment. Elevated levels of phosphorus can have detrimental effects on local animal life and lead to eutrophication, which causes harmful algae blooms. These blooms deplete oxygen in the water, leading to dead zones and suffocating ecosystems. Additionally, phosphorus poses a risk to the safety of our drinking water. In this blog, we will explore the importance of removing phosphorus from wastewater and discuss various techniques for effective removal.

Why is Phosphorus a Problem in Wastewater?

Phosphorus is an essential element, but excessive amounts can cause environmental complications in natural water sources. Eutrophication, a result of high phosphorus levels, leads to the rapid growth of algae and other plants, depleting oxygen in the water. This oxygen depletion, known as dead zones, harms aquatic life and can cause "Fish Kills" when there is insufficient oxygen for fish survival.

Chemical vs. Biological Phosphorus Removal:

Phosphorus removal from wastewater can be achieved through chemical or biological methods, or a combination of both. Chemical phosphorus removal involves the use of iron, calcium, or aluminum salts to precipitate phosphorus from the water [3]. This method is effective in removing phosphorus but requires careful monitoring and control.

Biological phosphorus removal utilizes microorganisms that can absorb and store phosphorus. This method is more sustainable and cost-effective, but it requires proper system design and operation to ensure optimal performance [2].

Choosing a Phosphorus Removal System:

When selecting a phosphorus removal system, it is essential to consider factors such as the specific wastewater characteristics, treatment goals, and budget. There are various chemical and biological system options available, each with its advantages and limitations [1].

Chemical System Options:

1. Iron-based Chemicals: Iron salts, such as ferric chloride or ferric sulfate, can effectively remove phosphorus from wastewater through precipitation.

2. Aluminum-based Chemicals: Aluminum salts, such as alum, can also be used for phosphorus removal. These chemicals form insoluble compounds with phosphorus, which can then be removed through sedimentation or filtration.

Biological System Options:

1. Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal (EBPR): This method involves cultivating specific microorganisms that can accumulate and store phosphorus. EBPR systems require careful control of operating conditions and nutrient ratios to ensure successful phosphorus removal.

2. Combined Chemical-Biological Treatment: Combining chemical precipitation with biological processes can provide more efficient phosphorus removal, especially in cases where high phosphorus concentrations need to be reduced quickly.


Removing phosphorus from wastewater is vital for safeguarding ecosystems and ensuring the safety of our drinking water. Both chemical and biological phosphorus removal methods offer effective solutions, but careful consideration must be given to system selection, operation, and maintenance. By implementing appropriate phosphorus removal techniques, we can mitigate the harmful impacts of phosphorus on water bodies and preserve the well-being of both aquatic and terrestrial life.


[1] Tom Frankel. "Phosphorus Removal from Wastewater: Techniques and Considerations." Available at: [insert URL]

[2] "Phosphorus Removal from Wastewater: Biological and Chemical Options." Available at: [insert URL]

[3] "Chemical Phosphorus Removal in Wastewater Treatment." Available at: [insert URL]


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