This research aimed to investigate the phosphorus (P) removal of a series of laboratory-scale unvegetated vertical-flow constructed wetland systems using anthracite, steel slag and related blends as substrate in treatment of low concentration domestic sewage. The long-term performance of P removal was firstly studied by using single substrate of anthracite or steel slag, and three systems applying various combined substrates were investigated when the average P loading rate varied between 0.9 and 1.5 g TP/m2·d. The results demonstrated that both anthracite and steel slag systems were highly effective in removing total P (TP, 77.17 ± 23.34% and 90.26 ± 4.48%) and soluble reactive P (SRP, 92.14 ± 12.56% and 96.20 ± 2.58%). The system filled with anthracite, vermiculite and steel slag from the top down removed 82.45 ± 9.52% and 87.83 ± 8.58% of TP and SRP, respectively. However, other combined substrate systems showed comparative low and fluctuant P removal. The effluent pH was maintained at 7–9, which met environmental requirements of China. Therefore, anthracite provides a long-term high efficiency of P removal and may be a promising substrate from the standpoint of the effluent pH, and the arrangement of combined substrate has a prominent effect on P removal.

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