French vertical flow constructed wetlands (French VFCWs) are widely used for the treatment of wastewaters from small communities. In the system, unsettled wastewater is percolated through two successive stages of filter-cells planted with reeds. This causes the formation of a surface sludge layer. This layer plays positive roles in the treatment performance, but also leads to clogging. The objective of this study was to contribute to the description of the sludge deposits characteristics and their dynamics of evolution, which may control the development of clogging. Representative samples of sludge deposits were taken from 14 French VFCWs full-scale plants and analyzed for particle size, dynamic vapor sorption and other parameters of composition to compare their structure and evaluate the factors of influence. Results showed that ageing of the surface deposits layer over the years of operation in each plant induced the formation and integration of microaggregates within the initial macrostructure of fresh organic matter (OM). The humification process of the OM was found to play a key role in the aggregation process. The injection of FeCl3 operated to precipitate phosphates before filtration was found to accelerate the aggregation process in the early phase (<1 year) of operation of the sludge.

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