The non-biodegradable and chemically very stable phosphonates are used in a variety of industrial applications including cooling waters, oil production and textile industry. We show here that they are degraded in the presence of Mn(II) and oxygen. The half-life for the reaction is 9 min near neutral pH. The presence of other cations such as Ca(II) and Zn(II) considerably slows down the reaction by competition with Mn(II) for the phosphonate. The reaction involves the oxidation of complexed Mn(II) by oxygen to Mn(III) and the subsequent oxidation of phosphonate by Mn(III) thus yielding two stable phosphonic acid breakdown products. The oxidation also proceeds in the presence of the mineral manganite (Mn(III)OOH), and yields the same breakdown products. The use of a newly developed chromatographic method revealed the presence of the breakdown products in wastewater. The results show that manganese-catalyzed oxidation might be an important pathway for phosphonate degradation in natural waters.
Keywords: Aminopolyphosphonates, Manganese, Oxidation, Chelating agents, Wastewater