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Fate and distribution of arsenic in laboratory-scale subsurface horizontal-flow constructed wetlands treating an artificial wastewater

Rahman, Khaja Zillur, Wiessner, Arndt, Kuschk, Peter, van Afferden, Manfred, Mattusch, Jürgen, Müller, Roland Arno
Ecological engineering 2011 v.37 no.8 pp. 1214-1224
Juncus effusus, arsenic, biomass, carbon, constructed wetlands, gravel, planting, roots, shoots, volatile compounds, wastewater
Knowledge regarding the fate, accumulation and distribution of arsenic inside constructed wetlands is still insufficient. Based on a complete mass balance analysis, the aim of this study was to investigate the fate and distribution of As in distinct wetland compartments and different segments along the wetland gradient. Experiments were carried out in laboratory-scale wetland systems, two planted with Juncus effusus and one unplanted, using an As-containing artificial wastewater. The obtained results revealed that the planted wetlands have a substantially higher As-mass retention capacity (59–61% of the total As inflow) than wetlands without plantation (only 44%). However, different loads of organic carbon within the inflowing artificial wastewater showed no remarkable influence on As-mass retention in the planted wetlands. Nearly 47–52% of the total inflowing As mass was found to be retained within the first half of the planted wetlands and this retention decreased step by step along the flow path. In contrast, only 28% of the total inflowing As mass was retained within the first half of the unplanted wetland. In general, a different fate and distribution of As was observed inside the planted and unplanted wetlands. Higher As concentrations were exhibited by the plant roots (51.5–161.5mgAskg⁻¹dry wt.) compared to the shoots (1.1–6.4mgAskg⁻¹dry wt.). Analysis of the total As-mass balance in the planted wetlands revealed that nearly 44–49% of the total inflowing As was recovered or concentrated within the plant roots, only 1% was sequestered within the plant shoots, 7–10% were entrapped or deposited within the gravel bed sediments, 2–3% were retained in the standing pore water, 39–41% were flushed out as outflow and the remaining 1–2% is still considered to be unaccountable. Total As accumulation in the plant shoots made a small contribution to the mass balance, and plant root biomass was found to be the most important compartment for As retention. In contrast, nearly 11% of the total inflowing As were found in the sediment, 2% in the standing pore water, 57% in the outflow and a substantially higher portion (nearly 30%) remained unaccountable in the unplanted bed, which might be released as volatile As compounds or lost from the system due to various unknown reasons. The results indicate that plants have a remarkable effect on As retention and stability of already retained As; hence planted wetlands might be a suitable option for treating As-contaminated wastewater.