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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Laboratory evaluation of sulfur modified iron for use as a filter material to treat agricultural drainage waters

item Allred, Barry

Submitted to: American Geophysical Union
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/4/2009
Publication Date: 9/14/2009
Citation: Allred, B.J. 2009. Laboratory Evaluation of Sulfur Modified Iron for Use as a Filter Material to Treat Agricultural Drainage Waters [abstract]. American Geophysical Union.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Where subsurface drainage practices are employed, fertilizer nutrients and pesticides applied on farm fields and municipal locations are commonly intercepted by the buried drainage pipes and then discharged into local streams and lakes, oftentimes producing adverse environmental impacts on these surface water bodies. On-site water filter treatment systems can be employed to prevent the release of agricultural nutrients/pesticides into adjacent waterways. Sulfur modified iron is a relatively unknown industrial product that may have promise for use as a filter material to remove contaminants from subsurface drainage waters. Sulfur modified iron (SMI) is a high surface area iron powder (zero valent iron) that has been altered via chemical reaction with pure sulfur to produce a sulfur/iron surface coating on the iron particles. A laboratory investigation was conducted with contaminant removal batch tests, saturated falling-head hydraulic conductivity tests, and saturated solute transport column experiments to evaluate the feasibility for using SMI to treat subsurface drainage waters. Contaminant removal batch tests showed that three SMI samples were much more effective removing nitrate (> 94% nitrate removed) than three zero valent iron samples (< 10% nitrate removed). Batch test results additionally showed that SMI removed greater that 94% of dissolved phosphate, but was not particularly effective removing the pesticide, atrazine (< 37% atrazine removed). Hydraulic conductivity tests indicated that all three SMI samples that were evaluated had sufficient hydraulic conductivity, much greater than the 1 x 10-3 cm/s standard used for stormwater sand filters. The saturated solute transport tests confirmed that SMI can be effective removing nitrate and phosphate from drainage waters. Analysis of column effluent also showed that the large majority of nitrate removed by SMI was converted to ammonium. Consequently, these laboratory findings support the use of SMI in agricultural drainage water filter treatment systems, particularly when nitrate and phosphate pollution are major environmental concerns.

Last Modified: 07/25/2017
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