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Development and evaluation of a mechanistic model to assess the fate and removal efficiency of hydrophobic organic contaminants in horizontal subsurface flow treatment wetlands

Cancelli, Alexander M., Gobas, Frank A.P.C., Wang, Qian, Kelly, Barry C.
Water research 2019 v.151 pp. 183-192
biotransformation, environmental factors, hydrophobicity, mechanistic models, organic matter, rhizomes, subsurface flow, transpiration, vegetation, volatilization, wastewater, water budget, wetlands, Singapore
A mechanistic model for assessing the fate and removal efficiency of hydrophobic organic contaminants in horizontal subsurface flow treatment wetlands was developed and evaluated using empirical concentration data from Singapore's Lorong Halus Treatment Wetland. This treatment wetland consists of a series of horizontal subsurface flow reed beds. The model, calibrated for the Lorong Halus Treatment Wetland, provided an adequate description of the concentrations of nine neutral organic substances in water, rhizomes and emergent vegetation in the wetland. The model was applied to investigate the sensitivity of the contaminant removal efficiency to environmental conditions and physicochemical properties of contaminants that enter the wetland. The water-budget of the wetland was found to exhibit an important influence on both the mass-removal efficiency and reduction of contaminant concentrations that can be achieved through wetland treatment. The model illustrated that removal pathways of organic contaminants in the wetland varied as a function of the properties of the contaminants. The mass-removal efficiency of the treatment wetland was greatest for chemicals with a log KOW between 3.0 and 5.0 and log KAW > −1.0. Removal of contaminants through volatilization was found to be greatest for substances with a log KOW between 3 and 5 and log KAW > 0. Transpiration flux in vegetation was found to be most important for substances with a log KOW between 4.5 and 5.5 and a log KAW between −5.0 and 0.0. Biotransformation rates of the contaminants in the wetland media play a crucial role in the removal of contaminants from wastewater. The model provides a tool for assessing the removal capacity of treatment wetlands for neutral organic contaminants and evaluating trade-offs in the design and operation of a horizontal subsurface flow treatment wetland.