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Nutrient transport and transformation beneath an infiltration basin

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Field experiments were conducted to examine nutrient transport and transformation beneath an infiltration basin used for the disposal of treated wastewater. Removal of nitrogen from infiltrating water by denitrification was negligible beneath the basin, probably because of subsurface aeration as a result of daily interruptions in basin loading. Retention of organic nitrogen in the upper 4.6 m of the unsaturated zone (water table depth of approximately 11 m) during basin loading resulted in concentrations of nitrate as much as 10 times that of the applied treated wastewater, following basin "rest" periods of several weeks, which allowed time for mineralization and nitrification. Approximately 90% of the phosphorus in treated wastewater was removed within the upper 4.6 m of the subsurface, primarily by adsorption reactions, with abundant iron and aluminum oxyhydroxides occurring as soil coatings. A reduction in the flow rate of infiltrating water arriving at the water table may explain the accumulation of relatively coarse (>0.45 μm), organic forms of nitrogen and phosphorus slightly below the water table. Mineralization and nitrification reactions at this second location of organic nitrogen accumulation contributed to concentrations of nitrate as much as three times that of the applied treated wastewater. Phosphorus, which accumulated below the water table, was immobilized by adsorption or precipitation reactions during basin rest periods.
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Keywords: GROUNDWATER; INFILTRATION BASIN; NITROGEN; NUTRIENTS; PHOSPHORUS; RECHARGE BASIN; WASTEWATER

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1998-07-01

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    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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