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Nutrient concentrations in wastewater treatment plant effluents, South Platte River Basin

January 1, 1997

Accurate data about nutrient concentrations in wastewater treatment plant effluents are needed for river basin water-quality studies. As part of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Quality Assessment Program in the South Platte River Basin, nutrient data were requested from 31 wastewater-treatment plants located in the basin. This article describes the types of nutrient data available from the plants, examines the variability of effluent nutrient concentrations, and discusses methods for estimation of nutrient concentrations where data are lacking. Ammonia was monitored at 88 percent of the plants, nitrite plus nitrate was monitored at 40 percent of the plants, and organic nitrogen and phosphorus were monitored at less than 25 percent of the plants. Median total nitrogen concentrations and median total phosphorus concentrations were small compared to typical literature estimates for wastewater-treatment plants with secondary treatment. Nutrient concentrations in effluent from wastewater-treatment plants varied widely between and within plants. For example, ammonia concentrations varied as much as 5 mg/L during a day, as much as 10 mg/L from day to day, and as much as 30 mg/L from summer to winter within a plant. In the South Platte River Basin, estimates of median annual ammonia and nitrite plus nitrate concentrations can be improved based on plant processes; and nitrite plus nitrate and organic nitrogen concentrations can be estimated based on ammonia concentrations. However, to avoid large estimation errors, mere complete nutrient data from wastewater-treatment plants are needed for integration into river basin water quality studies. The paucity of data hinders attempts to evaluate the relative importance of point source and nonpoint source nutrient loadings to rivers.

Publication Year 1997
Title Nutrient concentrations in wastewater treatment plant effluents, South Platte River Basin
Authors M. Pocernich, D. W. Litke
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of the American Water Resources Association
Index ID 70020064
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse