Regulations in many regions of the world require total phosphorus (TP) levels lower than 0.10mgP/L (100μgP/L) in effluents, resulting in the need to achieve very low ortho-phosphate (OP) concentrations. Chemical precipitation is a widely used technology for controlling effluent OP discharge, either on its own or supplementing biological methods. The various chemical and physico-chemical mechanisms that result in extremely low residual OP levels are complex and depend on pH. In practice, engineering calculations frequently use an empirical precipitation model. This model requires pH as input and predicts the lowest achievable OP residual of 35μgP/L at a narrow optimum pH of 6.9 – 7.0, when an excess of ferric is added. The model has been combined with a biokinetic and weak acid/base chemistry based pH model, to allow accurate prediction of pH, OP residuals and chemical sludge production. Analysis of effluent data from the Blue Plains plant shows that residuals as low as 10μgP/L OP can be achieved regularly, over a wider pH range. The precipitation model was recalibrated to match the newly available data. Subsequently it was compared with a new, mechanistic precipitation model based on solubility and dissociation constants for actual chemical compounds. The need for more accurate measurement of extremely low OP concentrations and considering the role of organics, adsorption and coagulation in chemical phosphorus removal is demonstrated.

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