Phosphorus Reduction and Upgrade

Simple Ways to Reduce Phosphorus Pollution

Phosphorus is an essential element for all living things, but phosphorus is also one of the primary nutrients polluting Connecticut's surface waters. Too much phosphorus contributes to excessive growth of algae. As the excessive algal growth dies, the decay process uses up oxygen in the water, which can lead to fish kills.

The Town of Plainville Water Pollution Control System is not currently designed to remove phosphorus to acceptable levels; however, the most recent permit issued to the Town of Plainville requires us to reduce the amount of phosphorus to 0.2 mg/l. Over the next 4 years we will be in the process of coming into compliance with this new requirement. Reducing the amount of phosphorus being sent to the treatment plant is in everyone’s best interest.

Two significant sources of phosphorus in wastewater are dishwasher detergents and food waste (garbage disposal waste.) Fortunately, the phosphorus contribution from dishwasher detergents and food wastes are easily reduced.


Choose low and non-phosphorus detergents. Most popular dishwasher detergent brands contain anywhere from 4 to 9 percent phosphorus, which is as much phosphorus as common garden fertilizers. Check the label and choose a brand with a lower phosphorus content (usually expressed as “phosphate” on the label.) For a phosphate-free detergent alternative, mix 1 cup of borax with ½ cup of baking soda.

Reduce detergent use. Most people use too much dishwasher detergent. The amount of detergent needed depends on the water hardness. For “hard” water, more detergent is required. In general, the dispenser cup only needs to be filled full for heavy loads washed in hard water. Running full loads will reduce detergent use as well.

Place food waste in the garbage. Before washing, scrape food from dishes into the garbage. Also, minimize garbage disposal use in the kitchen. Most food wastes are quite high in phosphorus, especially potato peels and meat products. The ground up particles from these wastes increase phosphorus concentrations in the wastewater.