A multi-stage municipal wastewater treatment system is proposed to comply with Mexican standards for discharge into receiving water bodies. The system is located in Santa Fe de la Laguna, Mexico, an area with a temperate climate. It was designed for 2,700 people equivalent (259.2 m3/d) and consists of a preliminary treatment, a septic tank as well as two modules operating in parallel, each consisting of a horizontal subsurface-flow wetland, a maturation pond and a vertical flow polishing wetland. After two years of operation, on-site research was performed. An efficient biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) (94–98%), chemical oxygen demand (91–93%), total suspended solids (93–97%), total Kjeldahl nitrogen (56–88%) and fecal coliform (4–5 logs) removal was obtained. Significant phosphorus removal was not accomplished in this study (25–52%). Evapotranspiration was measured in different treatment units. This study demonstrates that during the dry season wastewater treatment by this multi-stage system cannot comply with the limits established by Mexican standards for receiving water bodies type ‘C’. However, it has demonstrated the system's potential for less restrictive uses such as agricultural irrigation, recreation and provides the opportunity for wastewater treatment in rural areas without electric energy.
Keywords: maturation pond, multi-stage treatment, pollutant removal efficiencies, wetlands treatment