USGS Phosphorus Filter

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Detailed Description

Take a short look at a low cost phosphorus removal water filter the USGS has been working on for several years. 


Date Taken:

Length: 00:02:00

Location Taken: Leetown Science Center, WV, US

Video Credits

Nicholas Morgan, Philip Sibrell, Mark Bonito



Hello, I’m Phil Sibrell, and I’m a research engineer with the US Geological Survey, at the Leetown Science Center, in Kearneysville, West Virginia.

Our concept is to use mine drainage ochre to remove phosphate from wastewater.  Because the ochre is a by-product it is inexpensive and readily available in many parts of the country.

However, what makes the process doubly attractive is the fact that the ochre is also a very good absorbent for phosphate.

I’m going to demonstrate this by taking a sample of water and processing it in this laboratory column of ochre.  

This is aquarium water from my home, and it is relatively high in phosphate.  I’ll show that with this field analysis kit.  The chemicals in the kit will react with any phosphate in the water to form a blue color.

So you can clearly see that this water has phosphate in it.  Now, I’m going to pour a couple of ounces of the water through this column that is packed with the ochre.

Isn’t that remarkable?  In just one minute of contact time, almost all of the phosphate has been removed from the water.  

What’s even more remarkable is that I could repeat this demonstration hundreds of times before the media would saturate.  

And as a bonus, we can reverse the sorption reaction, strip the phosphate off of the media and precipitate a fertilizer product, thereby closing the phosphorus recycle loop and regenerating the ochre media for another cycle of use.

But to make a real impact on the environment, we’re going to have to do this on a very large scale.  And that is why we have built this demonstration plant here at the Leetown Science Center that you see behind me.  

With this system, we can process over 100,000 gallons per day of aquaculture wastewater using a scaled up version of the demonstration I just showed.  

Well, that’s our story, and I hope that you have found it to be interesting and informative. 

Of course, I didn’t do this all by myself, so I’d like to acknowledge my co-workers at the US Geological Survey.