Dynamic sorption of ammonium by sandy soil in fixed bed columns: Evaluation of equilibrium and non-equilibrium transport processes

S. Jellali*, E. Diamantopoulos, H. Kallali, S. Bennaceur, M. Anane, N. Jedidi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


The release of excess nitrogen-containing compounds into groundwater is a major concern in aquifer recharge by the Soil Aquifer Treatment (SAT) process. Ammonium (N H4+) is one of the most nocive and common nitrogen compounds in wastewaters. In order to assess the risk of wastewater use for aquifer recharge,N H4+adsorption onto Souhil wadi soil sampled from the SAT pilot plant (Nabeul, Tunisia) was studied using laboratory columns experiments. Several experiments were conducted using aqueous synthetic solutions under different aqueous ammonium concentrations and flow rates. Furthermore, a real wastewater solution was used to test the effect of competitive cations contents on N H4+ adsorption. Afterwards, the Hydrus-1D model was used in inverse mode to simulate the ammonium transport through the Souhil wadi soil. For the synthetic solutions, the adsorbed ammonium amount varied from 1 to 30.7 mg kg-1 for aqueous ammonium concentrations between 4.9 and 36.4 mg L-1. The linear isotherm model was found to be the most suitable for describing this adsorption. The flow rate decrease from 45 to 15 mL min-1 induced an increase in the ammonium adsorption capacity by 49%. Indeed, the lesser the flow rate is, the longer the residence time and the higher the exchange between the aqueous solution and soil matrix. The use of wastewater instead of aqueous synthetic solution decreased about 7 times the Souhil wadi adsorption capacity of ammonium because of its relatively high concentrations of competitive ions such as calcium and magnesium. The use of the Hydrus-1D model showed that the chemical non-equilibrium model was the best to simulate the ammonium transport through the laboratory soil columns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)897-905
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Ammonium
  • Breakthrough curves
  • Dynamic sorption
  • Hydrus-1D
  • Modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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