Efficacy of spent lime as a soil amendment for nutrient retention in bioretention green stormwater infrastructure

Paliza Shrestha, Michael T. Salzl, Ivan J. Jimenez, Nelish Pradhan, Megan Hay, Hannah R. Wallace, Jenna N. Abrahamson, Gaston E. Small

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The composition of bioretention soil media (BSM) is among the most critical design attributes contributing to the water quality performance of bioretention systems, as various amendments may increase the capacity for chemical sorption of certain nutrient pollutants. We investigated the spent lime (a calcium-based water treatment residual) as BSM amendments for nutrient retention. The study was conducted in two parts: the first was a field-based mesocosm experiment in which we assessed the effect of spent lime amendments on leachate nutrient concentration for treatments receiving different levels of phosphorus and nitrogen loading (simulated by different levels of compost added to the substrate). The second was a laboratory study comparing various levels of spent lime and coir on leachate nutrient concentration at two different simulated loading rates. Effluent water was collected and analyzed for PO4 3-, NH4 + and NO3- concentrations in the field and lab. Spent lime significantly reduced leachate PO4 3- concentrations (upwards of 50%) in both the field and lab mesocosm studies compared to treatments without spent lime. Reductions in NH4 + concentrations were also observed due to spent lime but with variable significance across the different compost levels, whereas NO3- concentrations were higher in plots with spent lime than plots without spent lime. In the lab, columns with coir had significantly higher leachate PO4 3- concentrations compared to spent lime-treated columns, however, leachate NH4 + and NO3- concentrations did not significantly differ between treatments at the same compost levels. This study shows that spent lime, which is a waste product, is effective in significantly reducing leachate PO4 3- concentrations from BSM, while be a cost-effective substitute to engineered proprietary media that is expensive to acquire; however, future studies must also evaluate its potential for clogging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1575
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioretention
  • Coir
  • Compost
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Spent lime
  • Water quality
  • Water treatment residuals

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