Active slag filters are an emerging technology for removing phosphorus (P) from wastewater. A number of researchers have suggested that adsorption isotherms are a useful tool for predicting P retention capacity. However, to date the appropriateness of using isotherms for slag filter design remains unverified due to the absence of benchmark data from a full-scale, field filter operated to exhaustion. This investigation compared the isotherm-predicted P retention capacity of a melter slag with the P adsorption capacity determined from a full-scale, melter slag filter which had reached exhaustion after five years of successfully removing P from waste stabilization pond effluent. Results from the standard laboratory batch test showed that P adsorption correlated more strongly with the Freundlich Isotherm (R2=0.97, P<0.01) than the Langmuir Isotherm, a similar finding to previous studies. However, at a P concentration of 10 mg/L, typical of domestic effluent, the Freundlich equation predicted a retention capacity of 0.014 gP/kg slag; markedly lower than the 1.23 gP/kg slag adsorbed by the field filter. Clearly, the result generated by the isotherm bears no resemblance to actual field capacity. Scanning electron microscopy analysis revealed porous, reactive secondary minerals on the slag granule surfaces from the field filter which were likely created by weathering. This slow weathering effect, which generates substantial new adsorption sites, is not accounted for by adsorption isotherms rendering them ineffective in slag filter design.

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