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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Assessment of Filter Materials for Removal of Contaminants From Agricultural Drainage Waters

item Allred, Barry

Submitted to: American Geophysical Union
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/1/2007
Publication Date: 12/10/2007
Citation: Allred, B.J. 2007. Assessment of Filter Materials for Removal of Contaminants from Agricultural Drainage Waters. American Geophysical Union.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Fertilizer nutrients and pesticides applied on farm fields, especially in the Midwest U.S., are commonly intercepted by buried agricultural drainage pipes and then discharged into local streams and lakes, oftentimes resulting in an adverse environmental impact on these surface water bodies. Low cost filter materials have the potential to remove nutrient and pesticide contaminants from agricultural drainage waters before these waters are released from the farm site. Batch tests were conducted to find filter materials potentially capable of removing nutrient (nitrate and phosphate) and pesticide (atrazine) contaminants from subsurface drainage waters. For each batch test, stock solution (40 g) and filter material (5 g) were combined in 50 mL Teflon centrifuge tubes and mixed with a rotator for 24 hours. The stock solution contained 50 mg/L nitrate-N, 0.25 mg/L phosphate-P, 0.4 mg/L atrazine, 570 mg/L calcium sulfate, and 140 mg/L potassium chloride. At the completion of each test, solution was removed from the centrifuge tube and analyzed for nitrate-N, phosphate-P, and atrazine. A total of 38 filter materials were tested, which were divided into five classes; high carbon content substances, high iron content substances, high aluminum content substances, surfactant modified clay/zeolite, and coal combustion products. Batch test results generally indicate, that with regard to the five classes of filter materials; high carbon content substances adsorbed atrazine very effectively; high iron content substances worked especially well removing almost all of the phosphate present; high aluminum content substances lowered phosphate levels; surfactant modified clay/zeolite substantially reduced both nitrate and atrazine; and coal combustion products significantly decreased phosphate amounts. For the 38 specific filter materials evaluated, based on a 60 percent contaminant reduction level, 12 materials removed nitrate, 26 materials removed phosphate, and 21 materials removed atrazine. The most effective filter materials proved to be a steam activated carbon, a zero valent iron and sulfer modified iron mixture, and a surfactant modified clay. The findings of this study indicate that there are a variety of filter materials, either separately or in combination, which have the potential to treat agricultural drainage waters.

Last Modified: 06/27/2017
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