Extraction and precipitation of phosphorus from sewage sludge

Nothando Cynthia Shiba, Freeman Ntuli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Citations (Scopus)


Raw sewage sludge from East Rand Water Care Association (ERWAT) had high phosphorus (P) content, approximately 15.2% (w/w) P2O5, which indicates a potential resource for the limiting nutrient. Leaching sewage sludge with 1 M sulphuric acid at 5% solid loading for 2 h resulted in an 82% phosphorus extraction. However, the phosphorus was recovered as iron phosphates, thus a further purification step using ion exchange to remove iron was required to increase the degree of P release. Magnesium oxide and ammonium hydroxide were used as magnesium and nitrogen sources, respectively, as well as pH regulators to precipitate P as struvite. 57% struvite was precipitated and the total phosphorus content of the precipitate was 25.9%. Kinetic studies showed that the leaching of phosphorus follows the Dickinson model for the first 100 min with a rate of reaction of about 2 × 10−5 s−1. The rate limiting step is controlled by diffusion. Phosphorus solubility in 2% critic acid was almost 96%, which is the amount of phosphorus available to plants if the precipitate is applied as a fertiliser. Environmental, gram-positive Bacillus subtilis were found in the precipitate, which are harmless to the environment since they already exist in the soil where the precipitate can be applied as a fertiliser.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-200
Number of pages10
JournalWaste Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Phosphate fertiliser
  • Phosphorus extraction
  • Sewage sludge
  • Struvite precipitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal


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