Constructed wetlands are cost effective wastewater treatment systems being increasingly used in agriculture. Efficient phosphorus (P) treatment by wetlands can however, be a challenge due to slow removal mechanisms. As a result, extended contact times are often required to achieve desired treatment. There are also concerns related to the long-term sustainability of P treatment. Therefore, a five year dataset from a surface flow constructed wetland located in Bible Hill Nova Scotia, Canada was examined to: 1) determine the effects of continued loading on P treatment and 2) evaluate hydrological impacts on P treatment. The wetland was intensively monitored year-round from November, 2000 through April, 2005 for total P (TP) and soluble reactive P (SRP). Dairy wastewater (milkhouse wash water and liquid manure) was loaded at 1.5 ± 1.0 kg ha−1 d−1 for TP and 1.0 ± 0.9 kg ha−1 d−1 for SRP. Mass reductions for the entire monitoring period were 53.7% and 52.7% for TP and SRP, respectively. Soils in this wetland appeared to have a sustained P adsorption capacity, with treatment being largely influenced by hydrology and fluctuations in wastewater loading rates. Linear regression of monthly TP and SRP mass reductions, with monthly outflow volumes resulted in decreased mass reductions with increased outflow. Monthly mass reductions were > 50% when corresponding outflows were < 100 mm. When monthly outflow exceeded 100 mm, however, mass reductions became highly variable. To maintain effective P management by constructed wetlands, the use of approaches that prevent high external hydrological loadings are recommended.
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Vol. 28 • No. 3