Fertiliser Project to Bring Down Phosphorus Levels

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A new sustainable fertiliser product being developed by scientists could improve catchment management of phosphorus and help water companies meet EU environmental legislation

The UK Water Industry currently faces tougher regulations on discharge consents for phosphorus to meet the Water Framework Directive (WFD) standards for water quality. 

Phosphates come from wastewater treatment plants, septic tanks and fertiliser run-off.

Currently phosphate from slurries and inorganic fertilisers washed off from surrounding farmland into rivers can cause algal blooms that affect water supply and can smother plant and animal life.

Scientists at environmental consultancy Aqua Enviro are now working together with Lancaster University on a three year £850k Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) project to develop sustainable fertiliser products to help reduce phosphorus levels.

The products being developed have the potential to provide a high quality, slow phosphorus release bio-fertiliser, reducing phosphorus run-off associated with farm yard manures and chemical-based fertiliser. 

The project is being carried out in collaboration with Stopford Energy and the James Hutton Institute.

Under the European Union Water Framework Directive, by the end of 2015 all rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater must achieve 'good ecological status'. In the UK, phosphorus pollution is the main barrier to meeting this target.

Previous United Kingdom Water Industry Research (UKWIR) projects have shown that whilst improved catchment management may take a number of years to take effect, it is an effective and essential part of the approach required to meet the WFD standards.

The project will use calcium-rich wastes derived from renewable energy generation to supplement organic material currently going to agricultural land.

Combining these materials aims to enhance the nutrient balance, provide additional vital micro-nutrients and improve nutrient release properties. 

The project will focus on food waste digestates but following successful results could be extended to encompass sewage sludges and farm yard manures. 

Improving the catchment management of nutrients, in particular phosphorus, whilst enhancing the value of sewage sludge biosolids at the same time could provide a great opportunity for the UK water companies.

Source: AquaEnviro

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