The aim of this work was to study the accumulation and fractionation of P in the inlet and outlet sediment of a constructed wetland for the wastewater treatment of a metallurgic plant in Argentina. It was important to predict whether P could be released into the water again by changing environmental conditions or retained over time. P-fractionation was performed using a sequential extraction method. Sediment cores were sliced at depths of: 0–3; 3–7 and 7–10 cm. Sediment showed high pH values and anoxic conditions. In the inlet area, P was principally bound to the carbonate fraction, whereas in the outlet area, it was mainly bound in the residual fraction. This behavior was justified by the effluent composition, which is rich in Ca2+ and Fe3+ and presents high values of pH and conductivity. These conditions favor CaCO3 and Fe(OOH)n precipitation and the subsequent sorption of P to their surface. The sediment active layer involved in the exchange reactions was the superficial one (0–3 cm). The wetland is highly efficient in P retention. P was retained by sediment in fractions that will not release it to the water while chemical and environmental conditions of the system are maintained.
Keywords: industrial effluent, phosphorus, sediment, sequential extraction