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A Three-stage Experimental Constructed Wetland for Treatment of Domestic Sewage: First 2 years of Operation

Ecological Engineering, 2011, 37 (1): 90-98
Vymazal, J., Kropfelova, L

Abstract: Hybrid constructed wetland systems have recently been used to treat wastewaters where high demand for removal of ammonia is required. However, these systems have not been used too often for small on-site treatment systems. This is because in many countries ammonia is not limited in the discharge from small systems. Hybrid systems have a great potential to reduce both ammonia and nitrate concentrations at the same time. In our study we employed a three-stage constructed wetland system consisting of saturated vertical-flow (VF) bed (2.5 m (2), planted with Phragmites australis), free-drained VF bed (1.5 m(2), planted with P. australis) and horizontal-flow (HF) bed (6 m(2), planted with Phalaris arundinacea) in series. All wetlands were originally filled with crushed rock (4-8 mm). However, nitrification was achieved only after the crushed rock was replaced with sand (0-4 mm) in the free-drain wetland. Also, original size of crushed rock proved to be too vulnerable to clogging and therefore, in the first wetlands the upper 40 cm was replaced by coarser fraction of crushed rock (16-32 mm) before the second year of operation started. The system was fed with mechanically pretreated municipal wastewater and the total daily flow was divided into two batches 12 h apart. The evaluation of the results from the period 2007 to 2008 indicated that such a system has a great potential for oxidation of ammonia and reduction of nitrate. The ammonia was substantially reduced in the free-drained VF bed and nitrate was effectively reduced in the final HF bed. The inflow mean NH4-N concentration of 29.9 mg/l was reduced to 6.5 mg/l with the average removal efficiency of 78.3%. At the same time the average nitrate-N concentration rose from 0.5 to only 2.7 mg/l at the outflow. Removal of BOD5 and COD amounted to 94.5% and 84.4%, respectively, with respective average outflow concentrations of 10 and 50 mg/l. Phosphorus was removed efficiently despite the fact that the system was not aimed at P removal and therefore no special media were used. Phosphorus removal amounted in 2008 to 65.4%, but the average outflow concentration of 1.8 mg/l is still high. The results of the present study indicate very efficient performance of the hybrid constructed wetlands, but optimal loading parameters still need to be adjusted. The capital cost of the experimental system is comparable to the conventional on-site treatment plant but the operations and maintenance costs are about one third of the conventional plant.