Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Plant and Soil Science

First Advisor

Drizo, Aleksandra


Around the world, the eutrophication of freshwater lakes and streams by the excess loading of phosphorus (P) has become one of the most important water quality issues. In Vermont, P pollution from urban and agricultural non-point sources has led to severe blooms of toxic cyanobacteria in Lake Champlain, and the degradation of the lake’s value as a drinking water source and its recreation potential. Electric arc furnace (EAF) steel slag has been identified as an effective material for use as a filter media for the removal of P from both point and non-point sources of pollution. In order to further assess the feasibility of this technology for use in Vermont, several investigations were carried out starting in the winter of 2006. Three objectives for research were identified: 1) to construct 2 EAF steel slag filters in-series at the Constructed Wetlands Research Center (CWRC) and investigate their efficiency in P, TSS and metals reduction from dairy waste water in a cold climate; 2) investigate the potential for reuse of P saturated EAF steel slag as a soil amendment and plant fertilizer by testing bioavailability of sorbed P and quantities of P released to surface runoff; 3) To elucidate the principal mechanisms responsible for the removal of P in EAF slag filters when used for the treatment of dairy effluent. The results indicated that 2 EAF steel slag filters constructed in-series are an effective method to increase the treatment efficiency and longevity of a filter system. Additionally, parameters for the concentrations of total suspended solids (TSS) and biological oxygen demand (BOD) were developed, both important factors for design of filter systems. In greenhouse trials, Medicago sativa plants achieved greater above ground biomass growth with P fertilization by triple super phosphate (TSP) than EAF steel slag at the shorter growth period (5 weeks). However, by the end of the longer growth period (10 weeks) except at the highest amendment rate, the plants treated with EAF steel slag had a higher growth rate than the TSP, suggesting that EAF steel slag is an effective slow release P source. Using a rain simulator, the amount of P lost to surface runoff from both a saturated and a semi-saturated EAF steel slag was found to be negligible, and except for total P in the saturated slag, to be below 1 mg L-1. Voltammetric analysis and geochemical modeling were used to identify possible mechanisms for the removal of P from waste effluent. The Ca mineral hydroxyapaptite and the Fe(II) mineral vivianite were both shown to be likely mechanisms given the chemical conditions in EAF steel slag filters. This research represents the first investigation of cold weather performance of EAF steel slag filters for the treatment of dairy parlor and milk house waste effluent. Additionally, it was also the first research on the bioavailability of P sorbed to EAF steel slag, and of the possibility of its reuse as a soil amendment, and of the mechanisms involved in P removal from dairy waste effluent.