Intensive use of phosphates has resulted in high P levels in surface waters and therefore eutrophication problems. Over the last decade many studies have revealed the advantage of using specific materials with efficient phosphorus retention capacities. Recent studies state that Ca materials are of particular interest for long-term retention of P, but can induce negative effects. To improve P retention and avoid negative counter-effects we tested the potential of natural apatites. Apatite sorption was evaluated using batch and open reactor experiments. Batch experiments identify sorption mechanisms and the influence of the ionic characteristics of the solution; open reactor experiments evaluate sorption capacities in relation to the ionic composition of the solution and biomass development. In parallel, observation of the material by electron microscopy was used to give more precision information about the mechanisms involved. This work reveals the strong chemical affinity between apatites and phosphorus. Compared to other calcareous materials apatite is better able to maintain low outlet P levels. After more than 550 days feeding, sorption was still present and low P outlet levels were still being obtained when sufficient contact time and calcium content in the solution were ensured. This work demonstrates the advantages of using apatites for phosphorus removal in constructed wetlands. The behaviour of apatite in phosphorus retention is explained and its suitability for use in such extensive systems defined.

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