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Performance evaluation of eight years experience of constructed wetland systems in Catalonia as alternative treatment for small communities

Vera, I., García, J., Sáez, K., Moragas, L., Vidal, G.
Ecological engineering 2011 v.37 no.2 pp. 364-371
biochemical oxygen demand, constructed wetlands, effluents, nitrogen content, nutrients, phosphorus, probability, statistical analysis, subsurface flow, total suspended solids, wastewater treatment, Spain
In Catalonia (Spain), a variety of different systems have been built to naturally treat liquid residues from small communities. Some of these wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) include constructed wetlands with horizontal subsurface flow (HSSF) as secondary treatment. The present study described and characterized the performance of 11 WWTPs with secondary HSSF constructed wetland systems after an initial operating period of 8 years. The effluent concentrations of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD₅), Total Suspended Solids (TSS), Total Nitrogen (TN) and Total Phosphorous (TP) were statistically analyzed, and removal efficiencies for all WWTPs including all stages in treatment were calculated. The accumulated probability functions of those parameters were evaluated to determine the influence of two different types of polishing units on the overall performance: (a) only lagoon systems and (b) lagoon systems with HSSF. The statistical analysis indicates good performance for BOD₅ and TSS. In the first case, mean concentrations below 25mg/L were found in 9 of the 11 plants analyzed and removal efficiencies between 78 and 96% were observed. In the second case, mean concentrations below 35mg/L were found in 8 of the 11 plants, and removal efficiencies were between 65 and 88%. For the nutrients, the removal efficiency for TN and TP were in the range of 48–66% and 39–58%, respectively. Additionally, the analysis of the influence of the polishing units did not show a significant improvement (α>0.05) for any parameter in the wetland systems without a subsequent polishing unit. However, in the wetland systems with a polishing unit of HSSF, a significant improvement (α<0.05) was found for the effluent's BOD₅, TN and TP concentrations but with no significant contribution in TSS management.