IWA Publishing

Vertical-flow constructed wetlands treating domestic wastewater contaminated by hydrocarbons


The aim was to compare the impact of different design (aggregate size) and operational (contact time, empty time and chemical oxygen demand (COD) loading) variables on the long-term and seasonal performance of vertical-flow constructed wetland filters operated in tidal flow mode before and after a one-off spill of diesel. Ten different vertical-flow wetland systems were planted with Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud. (common reed). Approximately 130 g of diesel fuel was poured into four wetland filters. Before the spill, compliance with secondary wastewater treatment standards was achieved by all wetlands regarding ammonia-nitrogen (NH4-N), nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) and suspended solids (SS), and non-compliance was recorded for biochemical oxygen demand and ortho-phosphate-phosphorus (PO4-P). Higher COD inflow concentrations had a significantly positive impact on the treatment performance for COD, PO4-P and SS. The wetland with the largest aggregate size had the lowest mean NO3-N outflow concentration. However, the results were similar regardless of aggregate size and resting time for most variables. Clear seasonal outflow concentration trends were recorded for COD, NH4-N and NO3-N. No filter clogging was observed. The removal efficiencies dropped for those filters impacted by the diesel spill. The wetlands system shows a good performance regarding total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) removal.

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