Calcium carbonate phosphate binding ion exchange filtration and accelerated denitrification improve public health standards and combat eutrophication in aquatic ecosystems

Vijay Yanamadala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Cultural eutrophication, the process by which a lake becomes rich in dissolved nutrients as a result of point and nonpoint pollutant sources, is a major cause of the loss of natural lake ecosystems throughout the world. The process occurs naturally in all lakes, but phosphate-rich nutrient runoff from sources such as storm drains and agricultural runoff is a major cause of excess phosphate-induced eutrophication. Especially in Madrona Marsh, one of the last remaining vernal marshes in the greater Los Angeles area, California, cultural eutrophication has become a major problem. In this study, calcium carbonate was found to be an excellent phosphate binder, reducing up to 70% of the phosphates in a given sample of water, and it posed relatively negligent ecological repercussions. This study involved the testing of this principle in both the laboratory and the real ecosystem. A calcium carbonate lacing procedure was first carried out to determine its efficacy in Madrona Marsh. Through this, ammonia was found to interfere with the solubility of calcium carbonate and therefore to be a hindrance to the reduction of phosphate. Therefore, various approaches for reduction of ammonia were tested, including aeration, use of fiber growth media, and plants, mainly Caulerpa verticellata, chosen for it hardiness, primarily in an attempt to increase population of Nitrobacter and Nitrosomonas. All were successful in moderately reducing ammonia levels. In addition, soil sampling, sediment analysis, microscopic plant analysis, microorganism and macroinvertebrate identification, and rate law formulations were conducted. The effect of phosphate and ammonia reduction on the populations of enterobacteria was also an important focus of this experiment. Varying concentrations of phosphate, ammonia, and calcium carbonate in conjunction with phosphate were tested in Madrona Marsh to determine their effects on the populations of enteropathogens on nonspecific blood agar, MacConkey agar, and Hektoen agar. Initial analyses suggest a strong correlation between phosphate concentrations and bacterial populations; a 66% decrease in phosphate resulted in a 35% reduction in bacterial populations and a 45% reduction in enteropathogenic populations. Likewise, a strong correlation was shown between calcium carbonate concentrations and bacterial reduction greater than that which can be attributed to the phosphate reduction alone. This was followed by the construction of various phosphate binding calcium carbonate filters, which used the ion exchange principle, including a spring loading filter, PVC pipe filter, and a galvanized filter. All were tested with the aid of Stoke's law formulation. The experiment was extremely successful in designing a working phosphate-binding and ammonia-reducing filter, and a large-scale agitator-clarifier filter system is currently being planned for construction in Madrona Marsh; this filter will reduce phosphate and ammonia levels substantially in the following years, bringing ecological, economical, and health-related improvements to the overall ecosystem and habitat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3003-3012
Number of pages10
JournalWater Environment Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Ammonia
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Denitrification
  • Enterobacteria
  • Eutrophication
  • Fresh water
  • Ion exchange
  • Lake
  • Marsh
  • Pathogens
  • Phosphate
  • Phosphate binders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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