A biological and chemical approach to restoring water quality: A case study in an urban eutrophic pond

Levi J. McKercher, Tiffany L. Messer, Aaron R. Mittelstet, Steve D. Comfort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Efforts to improve water quality of eutrophic ponds often involve implementing changes to watershed management practices to reduce external nutrient loads. While this is required for long-term recovery and prevention, eutrophic conditions are often sustained through the recycling of internal nutrients already present within the waterbody. In particular, internal phosphorus bound to organic material and adsorbed to sediment has the potential to delay lake recovery for decades. Thus, pond and watershed management techniques are needed that not only reduce external nutrient loading but also mitigate the effects of internal nutrients already present. Therefore, our objective was to demonstrate a biological and chemical approach to remove and sequester nutrients present and entering an urban retention pond. A novel biological and chemical management technique was designed by constructing a 37 m2 (6.1 m × 6.1 m) floating treatment wetland coupled with a slow-release lanthanum composite inserted inside an airlift pump. The floating treatment wetland promoted microbial denitrification and plant uptake of nitrogen and phosphorus, while the airlift pump slowly released lanthanum to the water column over the growing season to reduce soluble reactive phosphorus. The design was tested at the microcosm and field scales, where nitrate-N and phosphate-P removal from the water column was significant (α = 0.05) at the microcosm scale and observed at the field scale. Two seasons of field sampling showed both nitrate-N and phosphate-P concentrations were reduced from 50 μg L−1 in 2020 to <10 μg L−1 in 2021. Load calculations of incoming nitrate-N and phosphate-P entering the retention pond from the surrounding watershed indicate the presented biological-chemical treatment is sustainable and will minimize the effects of nutrient loading from nonpoint source pollution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115463
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Sep 15 2022


  • Eutrophication
  • Floating treatment wetland (FTW)
  • Nitrate-N
  • Phosphate-P
  • Slow-release lanthanum
  • Water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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