Muskegon wastewater land treatment system: Fate and transport of phosphorus in soils and life expectancy of the system

C. Hu, T. C. Zhang, D. Kendrick, Y. H. Huang, M. F. Dahab, R. Surampalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The build-up of phosphorus (P) in soil is a major factor limiting the operating life of a wastewater land treatment system. In this study, effects of long-term wastewater application on changes in chemical properties, P profiles, and P adsorption capacity were evaluated in soils of the Muskegon wastewater land treatment plant that has been treating wastewater for > 30 years. Results indicate that the major soil properties have been changed. In the 15 cm topsoil, the pH increased from ∼5-6 in 1973 to ∼7.4-7.8 in 2003; the soil's total organic carbon (TOC) increased by 10-71 %; and the level of exchangeable Ca in 2003 is 8-9 times higher than that in 1973. The amount of Ca/Mg absorbed in the soil affects the P adsorption capability of the soil; Ca- and Mg-bound P accounts for > 70 % of the total P adsorbed in the soil. The net P accumulated in the Rubicon soil increased from ∼700 in 1993 to ∼1345 kg/ha soil in 2001, but the plant available P varied between ∼100-500 kg/ha soil during the same period, indicating a large amount of the applied P has become the fixed P that is unavailable to plants. P sorption in the soil consists of a fast adsorption and a slow transformation process. The soil's maximum P sorption capacity (Pmax) (based on 1-day isotherm tests) has been increased by ∼2-4 times since 1973; the actual Pmax of the Muskegon soils could be much higher than the 1-day Pmax. Therefore, the life expectancy of the Muskegon system has been extended significantly with the application of wastewater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalEngineering in Life Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Bioengineering


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