Assimilation, sedimentation and release are the principal mechanisms controlling the behavior of phosphorus in aquatic ecosystems. There are numerous investigations of the phosphorus cycle in lakes and rivers in relation to the eutrophication process. There are, however, few studies about phosphorus cycling in waste stabilization ponds and most of these have discussed phosphorus removal.
The aims of this paper were: 1) to study phosphorus dynamics in relation to the biomass compartment (zooplancton, phytoplancton and bacteria); and 2) to evaluate the phosphorus removal efficiency of the treatment plant under arid climatic conditions. Of particular interest was the remobilization of phosphorus from the pond sediment, both under laboratory conditions and in the field.
The experimental installation consisted of two ponds receiving domestic wastewater (mean flow=120.4+5.8 m³.day-1 and specific organic load=56 kgBOD.ha-1. day-1; pond area=0.5 ha and depth=1.5 m). Samples were taken twice monthly from the surface, B1(S) and B2(S), and from the 1.5 m layers, B1(F) and B2(F). Composite (24 h) samples were taken from the inflow and the outflowof the plant to determine the removal efficiencies. In each sample, soluble reactive phosphorus (PO4), total phosphorus (PT) and total soluble phosphorus (PTD) were determined. Particulate phosphorus (PTP) was calculated as (PT-PTD) and soluble organic phosphorus (POD) as (PTD-PO4).
Phosphorus release was measured in a plexiglas flask containing sediment (collected by corer from the pond bottom) overlaid with distilled water. Over 15 days, daily measurements were made of PO4 and total phosphorus. Sediment dry weight (%), volatile matter, organic carbon (%) and total phosphorus were measured before and after each test. Phosphorus contents of the phytoplankton, zooplankton and bacteria were estimated using the methods of BOUGIS (1974).
The results show that cyclical and seasonal variations of phosphorus content were closely correlated with variations in the biological components. Significant correlation coefficients were noted between chlorophyll-a and particulate organic phosphorus. Organic phosphorus in algal cells was the more important form of particulate organic phosphorus.
Under the arid climate, the waste stabilization ponds were more efficient at phosphate removal during the spring-summer period (77% of PO4 and 64% of total phosphorus in spring). The first pond may play the major role in phosphate removal. Phosphorus is only eliminated from stabilization ponds through accumulation in the sediment. However, part of the phosphorus which accumulates in pond sediments remains potentially mobile. During the summer period, phosphorus release from the sediment, observed in situ, was favored by stratification of the overlying water. The same phenomenon was noted during the autumn, particularly the release of POD. Laboratory studies have shown that phosphorus release may amount to 55 mg P m-2d-1. Biological activity may play a significant role in this mobilization.
Phosphorus, wastewater treatment, stabilization pond, removal efficiency, release.
N Ouazzani, Laboratoire d'Hydrobiologie (Analyse et Écotoxicologie), Faculté des Sciences de Marrakech-Semlalia, MAROC