A novel unplanted vertical flow subsurface constructed wetland technology comprising three shallow beds (0.6 m length, 0.45 m width and 0.2 m depth) arranged in a cascading series and a standard single-pass Vertical Flow Planted Constructed Wetland (VFPCW, 6 m2 and 0.7 m depth) were tested for grey water treatment. Particular focus was on meeting consent for published wastewater reuse parameters and removal of anionic surfactants. Treatment performance at two hydraulic loading rates (HLR) of 0.08, and 0.17 m3 m−2 d−1 were compared. Both technologies effectively removed more than 90% turbidity and more than 96% for organics with the prototype meeting the most stringent reuse standard of <2 NTU and <10 mg/L. However, surfactant removal in the VFPCW was higher (76–85%) than in the prototype which only achieved more than 50% removal at higher loading rate. Generally, the prototype performed consistently better than the VFPCW except for surfactant removal. However, at higher loading rates, both systems did not meet the reuse standard of <1 mg L−1 for anionic surfactants. This observation confirms that shallow beds provide a more oxidised environment leading to higher BOD5 and COD removals. Presence of plants in the VFPCW led to higher anionic surfactant removal, through increased microbial and sorption processes.
Keywords: cascading wetland beds, constructed sand filter, grey water, shallow beds wetland