Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

R. Ryan Dupont


R. Ryan Dupont


Bruce G. Bugbee


William J. Doucette


Duckweed species L. turionifera and W. borealis grow on Wellsville Municipal Sewage Lagoons in northern Utah and, when harvested, contribute to the removal of phosphorus and pharmaceuticals from wastewater. Microcosm studies showed that duckweed contains an average of 1% phosphorus (dry weight) and removes 113 mg-P/m2day under 200 μmol/m2sec light. Duckweed in laboratory experiments reduced influent phosphorus ranging from 3.88 to 5.2 mg-TP/L to effluent concentrations of 0.88 mg-P/L in 3 days to 0.16 mg-P/L (0.32 mg-TP/L) with continual harvesting and a liquid retention time of 46 days. Duckweed removal of pharmaceuticals was comparable to removal by membrane bio-reactors. Duckweed removed 99% acetaminophen mainly by plant uptake; 98% progesterone primarily by absorption to plant tissue; 90% fluoxetine by adsorption with some biological removal attributed to plants; and sulfamethoxazole removal varied between 25 to 90% depending on polarity. Carbamazepine did not react with duckweed. Typical influent wastewater concentrations of the five pharmaceuticals in this study were not toxic to duckweed with an EC50 value of 614 μg/L per compound. HPLC/MS detection of pharmaceuticals in liquid samples using solid phase extraction at a neutral pH and silanized glassware produced 92-102% recoveries. Analysis of extracted solids produced lower recoveries. Solid extraction efficiencies ranged from 56-70% for samples stored for 24 hours and decreased with increasing storage time. Field growth studies showed higher than expected duckweed growth rates in the spring compared to three models due to turion germination after the ice melts. The growth rates decreased in the fall due to turion formation in preparation for winter. Harvesting duckweed from the Wellsville Municipal Sewage Lagoons should begin after full surface coverage around June 17th and end when temperatures fall below 15 °C around September 15th. Bi-weekly harvests with a starting plant density of 75 g-dry duckweed/m2 for the lagoons operating at 0.547 MGD and 5 mg-TP/L are required to physically remove enough phosphorus in order to meet the city’s 432 kg-P/yr discharge permit. A duckweed phosphorus harvesting system in Wellsville was estimated to produce enough biomass to meet the P-discharge limit until the flow increases above 0.656 MGD around the Year 2017.




This work made publicly available electronically on May 10, 2012.