Quantification of complex phosphorus removal reactions occurring within wetland filtration treatment systems
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In a constructed treatment wetland applied to domestic wastewaters, long term studies and increased operational experience indicate that phosphorus removal is variable or inconsistent, especially in cold-climate applications. These inconsistencies can be attributed to the complexity of phosphorus removal mechanisms, and the lack of consideration of these complexities in the design, installation and operation of these treatment systems. Sorption of phosphorus to the wetland media is generally considered to be the major removal mechanism. The research described in this thesis was conducted to determine the most suitable material for application in a constructed wetland and a post wetland-filter to treat phosphorus in wastewater effluents, taking advantage of sorption processes. The present work was conducted at lab (bench) scale. Three potential sorptive media were studied in the research program, namely gravel, slag and clinker. Several methods for media analysis were investigated as potential screening tools for media selection. To determine the various forms of phosphorus in the media, sequential extraction tests were considered to be most relevant and useful for this research. Batch testing and flow cell testing along with sequential extraction tests were conducted to predict the sorption capacity and performance of the media for the long term (10+ years) removal of phosphorus. The protocols developed in this thesis permitted a rigorous assessment of the media and should be applied in any assessment of sorptive media to select the best medium. Gravel showed some sorption of phosphorus although it was not sufficient to meet the regulatory limits for the effluent concentration. Clinker and slag showed high sorption capacity as compared to gravel and the observed effluent concentration was below the regulatory limits. All three media showed the presence of background phosphorus, with clinker having the highest amount of background phosphorus. However, except gravel, clinker and slag did not show any significant amount of phosphorus being leached out during low phosphorus loading conditions. Taking all factors under consideration, slag and clinker were identified as good media for phosphorus removal. Media that have proven to have high sorption capacities and also retention capabilities should be considered for applications where phosphorus removal is the prime objective.