This study examined the dynamics of iron (Fe) and phosphorus (P) transformations from the surface sludge accumulated in tertiary horizontal flow (HF) treatment wetlands (TW) chemically dosed for P removal. Site surveys showed P was stored in HF TW with and without artificial aeration on average, with instances of P release in the non-aerated site. Controlled experiments revealed storing TW surface sludge for over 24 hours resulted in limited oxygen and nitrate concentrations, resulting in both P and Fe release. The rate of P release increased with increasing water-sludge P concentration gradients, and the reaction could take as little as 10 minutes. Convection had no impact on P transformation rates. The findings suggest mitigation strategies could include the manipulation of the biogeochemical environment by managing oxygen and nitrate concentrations within the wetlands. A better understanding of links between Fe, P, and nitrate is needed to test proactive mitigation strategies for small wastewater treatment plants.

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