The aim of this study was to evaluate the domestic wastewater treatment efficiency as well as the survivability of commercially valuable ornamental plants in subsurface flow wetlands (SSFW) for domestic wastewater (DWW) treatment in laboratory and pilot wetland studies. The laboratory scale study included five different species (Zantedeschia aethiopica, Strelitzia reginae, Anthurium andreanum, Canna hybrids and Hemmerocallis dumortieri) that were evaluated in horizontal flow subsurface treatment cells. All the plants survived during the 6-month experimental period demonstrating high wetland nutrient treatment efficiency. In order to validate and expand these preliminary results, a pilot-scale wetland study was carried out in SSFWs under two different flow regimes (horizontal and vertical flow). Four ornamental species were tested during a 1-year period: Zantedeschia aethiopica, Strelitzia reginae, Anthurium andreanum and Agapanthus africanus. The removal efficiencies were significantly higher in the vertical subsurface-flow constructed wetlands (VFCW) for all pollutants, except for nitrate (NO3-N), total nitrogen (TN) and total suspended solids (TSS). These results show that it is feasible to use select non-wetland plants with high market value in SSFWs without reducing the efficiency of the wastewater treatment system, although future work should continue in order to apply this technology in a large scale. The added value of floriculture in treatment wetlands can help to promote the use of constructed wetlands (CW) for domestic wastewater treatment in developing countries where economical resources are scarce and water pollution with DWW is common.
Keywords: developing countries, domestic wastewater, ornamental plants, subsurface-flow constructed wetlands