Influence of high organic loads during the summer period on the performance of hybrid constructed wetlands (VSSF + HSSF) treating domestic wastewater in the Alps region

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One of the limits for the application of constructed wetlands (CWs) in mountain regions (such as the Alps) is associated with the considerable land area requirements. In some mountain areas, the treatment of domestic wastewater at popular tourist destinations is particularly difficult during the summer, when the presence of visitors increases hydraulic and organic loads. This paper aims to evaluate whether a hybrid CW plant designed on the basis of the resident population only, can treat also the additional load produced by the floating population during the tourist period (summer, when temperatures are favourable for biological treatment), without a drastic decrease of efficiency and without clogging problems. The research was carried out by considering two operational periods: the first one was based on literature indications (3.2 m2/PE in the VSSF unit) and the second one assumed higher hydraulic and organic loads (1.3 m2/PE in the VSSF unit). The removal efficiency in the hybrid CW system decreased slightly from 94 to 88% for COD removal and from 78 to 75% for total N removal, even after applying a double hydraulic (from 55 to 123 L m−2 d−1) and organic load (from 37 to 87 g COD m−2 d−1 and from 4.4 to 10.3 g TKN m−2 d−1). The results showed that in the summer period the application of high loads did not affect the efficiency of the hybrid CW plant significantly, suggesting that it is possible to refer the CW design to the resident population only, with subsequent considerable savings in superficial area.

Keywords: Alps region, constructed wetlands, nitrogen removal, organic overload, summer period

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