Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014DC159B

Monitoring of Uptake of Water Soluble Phosphorus in Wastewater Samples by Algae Using 31P Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy

Institute: District of Columbia
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $15,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $51,600

Principal Investigators: Xueqing Song

Abstract: Freshwater harmful algal blooms (HABs) are comprised of algae that either creates health hazards for humans or animals through the production of toxins or bioactive compounds or that cause deterioration of water quality through the build-up of high biomass, which degrades aesthetic, ecological, and recreational values. While freshwater HABs occur naturally, human actions that disturb ecosystems in the form of increased nutrient loadings and pollution, modified hydrology, and introduced species have been linked to the increased occurrence of some freshwater HABs. The majority of the freshwater HAB problems reported in the United States and worldwide are due to one group of algae, the cyanobacteria HABs (CyanoHABs), but other groups of algae can also be harmful. CyanoHABs are not a new phenomenon, but the frequency and geographic distribution of documented CyanoHABs seem to have dramatically increased in recent decades in the United States and globally. The issue of freshwater HABs has received more attention outside the United States in the past, but, as most U.S. states now experience freshwater HABs, the issue is of growing national concern. Algae, like all organisms, need phosphorus to grow. The phosphorus is used in the cells mainly for production of phospholipids, ATP and nucleic acids. Algae assimilate phosphorus as inorganic orthophosphate, preferably as H2PO4‐ or HPO42-, and the uptake process is active, i.e. it requires energy. Organic phosphates can be converted to orthophosphates by phosphatases at the cell surface, and this occurs especially when orthophosphates are in short supply. Moreover, microalgae are able to assimilate phosphorus in excess, which is stored within the cells in the form of polyphosphate (volutin) granules. Treating the water with chemical algaecides may provide short-term relief but does not control the source of the problem, requiring repeated treatments that are expensive and may have adverse effects on our environment. An effective, long-term and cost-efficient approach to controlling algae includes reducing the amount of phosphorus entering our waters. Since algae have to utilize phosphorus from wastewater for their growth, this project is designed to collect some preliminary data to investigate the possibility of using algae as a method for phosphrous removal from wastewater. Moreover, algae can also fix carbon dioxide from atmosphere as in photosynthesis, thus reducing green house gas emission. Also, algal biomass can be used for biofuel which is considered as renewable energy. The objectives of this project are to develop analytical method able to provide rapid, sensitive, easy and reliable detection of soluble inorganic and organic phosphorus in sediment samples in Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, DC and to monitor the uptake of phosphorus by algae collected from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool by using phosphorous-31 NMR spectroscopy. This project is also designed to involve undergraduate students at the University of the District of Columbia in research. Undergraduate students in this project have the chance to learn analytical skills by collecting 31NMR data on NMR spectrometer and analyzing the data.