Phosphorus Recovery from Sewage

EPA Grant Number: SU832482
Title: Phosphorus Recovery from Sewage
Investigators: Carlarne, Cinnamon P , Kinkle, Brian , Maurer, Eric , Oerther, Daniel B.
Current Investigators: Carlarne, Cinnamon P , Bove, Adam , Herman, Billie , Hoerst, Amy , Kinkle, Brian , Lamendella, Regina , Lieberth, Brett , Lubbers, Hanna , Luedeker, Christopher , Majed, Nahreen , Maurer, Eric , Oerther, Daniel B. , Parsons, Mike , Shane, William , Umberg, Katie , Weinkam, Grant , Zdinak, Christopher
Institution: University of Cincinnati
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through May 31, 2006
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Intensive agricultural processes rely upon a readily available source of phosphorus to encourage crop growth. Currently, phosphorus is mined, processed, and distributed to be used as fertilizer following a once-through system where run off and discharge of phosphorus to sediments represents the dispersion and loss of this critical nutrient. Current estimates of the available supply of phosphorus ore suggest that intensive agricultural practices cannot be sustained beyond the next 250 years. Furthermore, the dispersion and loss of phosphorus to the environment represents a significant threat to surface water quality as phosphorus discharge often is responsible for stimulating eutrophication of surface water ecosystems. For the developed world, high tech approaches have been developed to capture and re-use phosphorus from sewage. Although this approach will capture more than fifteen percent of the phosphorus currently lost to the environment, the high tech approaches are not consistent with the needs and capabilities of emerging economies. The innovative approach to be pursued in this project links high tech approaches with the needs and capabilities of emerging economies to successfully transfer phosphorus recovery approaches from the developed to the developing world. This approach to technology transfer will be coupled with socioeconomic analysis of the costs and benefits of recycling phosphorus including previously ignored social costs such as eutrophication of surface water and the psychological hurdle of using a sewage byproduct to grow crops for human consumption. The results of this project will be measured through peer recognition by publication in archival journals, disseminated through presentations, and implemented at the University of Cincinnati through on-going courses entitled, CEE600/601 Chem & Microbiol Environ Sys/Lab and EVST 501/502 Environmental Capstone. Analysis of the full-cycle of sustainability is integrated through the fall Environmental Engineering course coupled with Environmental Studies research courses in the winter and spring. This project design enables environmental studies and engineering students to collaboratively examine both the bioavailability of phosphorus recovered from sewage for use as a fertilizer, and the short and long-term ecological, economic, social and political costs and benefits of recycling and reusing phosphorus.

Supplemental Keywords:

water, precipitation, bioavailability, sustainable development, innovative technologies, renewable, waste reduction, cost benefit, socioeconomic, conservation, environmental chemistry, engineering, social science, ecology,, Scientific Discipline, Water, Chemical Engineering, Wastewater, Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Engineering, eutrophication of surface water, phosphorus recovery, alternative technology, economically feasible technology, socioeconomics, industrial sewers, effluents, aqueous waste stream

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report