Laboratory studies have indicated that calcite may be used in separate, exchangeable filter units in constructed wetland systems to remove phosphorus. Based on these studies we built a full-scale experimental constructed wetland with a calcite-based filter unit to study its performance, under real-life conditions. The system consists of a 2-m3 sedimentation tank and two vertical flow constructed wetlands. The system has three 0.09 m3 calcite filter-units to study phosphorus removal. The hydraulic loading rate varied between 1.7 and 6.2 m3/d. The residence time in filters ranged from 28 to 99 minutes. Overall the system removed 62 ± 18% of phosphorus. The removal in the calcite filter was initially good, but after three months all P-filters were saturated. The calcite increased pH by approximately half a unit and released calcium. A total of about 2.2 kg P/m3 calcite was removed by the filter. The first-stage bed receiving effluent from the sedimentation tank consistently removed phosphorus, whereas the second bed sometimes released phosphorus. The first order area-based removal rate constant for total-P in the vertical bed averaged 0.24 ± 0.20 m/d and was highly dependent on the loading rate. This shows that first order removal kinetics do not satisfactorily describe removal of phosphorus in vertical flow constructed wetland systems with unsaturated flow.

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