Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Norma Alcantar, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Delcie Durham, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sarina Ergas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kebreab Ghebremichael, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sylvia Thomas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Qiong Zhang, Ph.D.


Ion exchange, Adsorption, Ammonia, Fluoride


Natural materials can be used to remove water contaminants by applying proper physical, chemical, and biological water treatment processes. This study involves using natural materials, as they are considered to be more environmentally benign and cost-effective than synthetic materials. This dissertation concentrates on monitoring five major water quality parameters—ammonia, fluoride, turbidity, pH, and fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) —in two major applications where clean water is needed. The focus is on meeting the water quality requirements for each contaminant. The overall objective of this study is to control the levels of ammonia in aquaculture wastewater, and adjust fluoride, turbidity, pH, and FIB in drinking water by using natural materials. To accomplish this objective, this dissertation study is divided into two parts. Part I is about ammonia removal in aquaculture wastewater. Zeolite was the representative natural material that was used in this study. The methodologies presented include ion exchange and chemical neutralization processes. Part II is about fluoride, turbidity, pH and fecal indicator bacteria control in drinking water. Pumice stone was used in this study. The methodologies utilized in this work include biofiltration and adsorption.

In Part I, the methods of ion exchange and chemical neutralization as a function of ammonia removal efficiency, toxicity, and daily cost were compared. All these methods were found to remove ammonia by a simple drop-off system. Chabazite, a natural zeolite, was the ion exchanger source. Similarly, we compared the effectiveness of commercialized neutralizers versus a novel neutralizer prepared for this work. The ion exchanger (chabazite) had the highest ammonia removal in freshwater, but no significant ammonia removal in seawater was observed after in-vivo trials. However, for commercial water neutralizers, the in-vivo trials showed that they are not able to control ammonia levels in either freshwater or seawater. The novel neutralizer was found to have higher ammonia removal efficiencies in both freshwater and seawater. In terms of toxicity, the AmmoSorb can be considered non-toxic. To safely use the novel neutralizer, it is recommended to control its daily dose at 1 g/L/day followed by a two-thirds volume of water change every day. A comprehensive cost analysis also showed that the novel neutralizer was the least expensive ammonia remover.

In Part II, drinking water was treated by a bench-scale biosand filter system that included different filtration technologies, biological disinfection, and adsorption. The filtration technologies analyzed in this work include Aluminum Oxide Coated Pumice (AOCP) and sand. The AOCP also works as adsorption media to remove fluoride in water. As results, the AOCP imbedded biosand filter (BSF) can efficiently control fluoride, turbidity, and pH level to meet the WHO standards. In addition, the exhausted BSF can be regenerated by recoating the pumice with additional layers of aluminum oxide. The fluoride, turbidity, pH, as well as fecal indicator bacteria levels controlled by the regenerated BSF also meet the WHO standard for about one-month operation.

The overall contribution of this research is providing new methods to treat water at an affordable cost and an easy operational procedure with potential health benefits to the specific applications that require ammonia, fluoride, turbidity, pH, and E. coli levels to be controlled.