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Get the “P” Out of There!

By Heather Jennings, PE

Phosphorus is one of the most abundant elements on earth. It’s essential for adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy carrier life is built on. But in excess in our lakes and ponds, we see large algal growths occurring. Many times, these algal blooms suffocate the surrounding aquatic life and or produce toxins that can kill both aquatic life and humans.

How does phosphorus get into our rivers and lakes? I’m glad you asked! Some of the sources are runoff from farm and lawn fertilizers or partial wastewater treatment of raw influent. With the exception of periodic excursion, wastewater treatment plants are typically operating under tight water quality permits with less than 1 mg/L of Total Phosphorus in their discharge permits. This limit is often less than the background phosphorus existing in receiving waters. The permits can be even tighter if the treatment plant discharges to sensitive waters of the U.S. (as defined for the Clean Water Act). [Read more…]

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