- Suspended particle and pathogen peak discharge buffering by a surface-flow constructed wetland
- Water Research
- Volume | Issue number
- 47 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Constructed wetlands (CWs) have been shown to improve the water quality of treated wastewater. The capacity of CWs to reduce nutrients, pathogens and organic matter and restore oxygen regime under normal operating conditions cannot be extrapolated to periods of incidental peak discharges. The buffering capacity of CWs during peak discharges is potentially a key factor for water quality in the receiving waters. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate the behaviour of peak discharges of suspended particles, (associated) physiochemical parameters and pathogenic organisms from a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in a full scale constructed wetland (CW). By mixing clarified water and sludge rich water from the settlement tank of the WWTP, the suspended particle concentration was increased for 8 h from ±3.5 to ±230 mg L−1, and discharged into a full scale horizontal surface flow constructed wetland. An increase of suspended particle concentration following the peak discharge concurred with increases in turbidity and oxygen demand, total nutrient load (nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon) and pathogens (Escherichia coli and Enterococci). Temperature, pH, conductivity and dissolved nutrient concentrations (nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon) were however unaffected by the initial peak discharge. After retention in the unvegetated ponds (the first CW compartment) the applied suspended particle peak with a total load of 86.2 kg was reduced by >99%. Similar peak buffering was observed for the turbidity, oxygen demand and settable volume. Simultaneously dissolved nutrient concentrations increased, indicating partial mineralization of the suspended particles during retention in the unvegetated ponds. The peak buffering of pathogens was lower (40-84%), indicating differences in removal processes between other suspended particles and pathogens. The results indicated that the suspended particles were probably mostly removed by sedimentation and mineralization, where pathogens were more likely buffered by biofilm retainment, mortality and predation, mainly in reed ditches. After passing through the total CW the residuals of the suspended particle peak discharge were temporal increased concentrations of inorganic carbon (IC), NH4 and E. coli (respectively 11%, 17% and 160% higher than steady state concentrations). The observations support the positive role of CWs for effective buffering of wastewater discharge peaks.
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