Optimizing Phosphorus Removal

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie, fueled by phosphorous from commercial fertilizer and manure, remove oxygen from the water, choking fish and threatening the health of the lake and its tributaries. Professor Glen Daigger and his team are working to optimize phosphorus removal at the GLWA treatment facility, which is one of the 10 largest such facilities in the world.

Water Theme

Funding Source

Great Lakes Water Authority

About this Project

To protect water quality in Lake Erie, the GLWA WRRF is faced with one of the most stringent effluent phosphorus standards for a facility of its type. Adding the chemical ferric chloride to its treatment process, it routinely complies with this stringent limit.

Plant staff have observed that the plant’s biological treatment system may be exhibiting the characteristics of biological phosphorus removal systems that do not require chemical addition. The U-M research team, led by Professor Glen Daigger, are investigating this possibility, along with methods to also optimize chemical phosphorus removal at the plant.

Laboratory- and field-based studies have demonstrated that the biological treatment system does, in fact, possess biological phosphorus removal characteristics. Biological phosphorus removal offers important benefits compared to chemical phosphorus removal, including elimination of the cost of chemical purchase, reduced sludge production, and the potential to recovery rather than simply remove phosphorus from the wastewater stream.

Work is on-going to determine how biological phosphorus removal can be further improved at the WRRF so that the plant’s outstanding phosphorus removal performance record can be maintained while gaining the cost and environmental benefits of transitioning more fully to biological phosphorus removal.

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