, Volume 19, Issue 8, pp 3525-3537
Date: 10 May 2012

Evaluation of the giant reed (Arundo donax) in horizontal subsurface flow wetlands for the treatment of dairy processing factory wastewater

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Abstract

Two emergent macrophytes, Arundo donax and Phragmites australis, were established in experimental horizontal subsurface flow (HSSF), gravel-based constructed wetlands (CWs) and challenged by treated dairy processing factory wastewater with a median electrical conductivity of 8.9 mS cm−1. The hydraulic loading rate was tested at 3.75 cm day−1. In general, the plants grew well during the 7-month study period, with no obvious signs of salt stress. The major water quality parameters monitored (biological oxygen demand (BOD), suspended solids (SS) and total nitrogen (TN) but not total phosphorus) were generally improved after the effluent had passed through the CWs. There was no significance different in removal efficiencies between the planted beds and unplanted gravel beds (p > 0.007), nor was there any significant difference in removal efficiencies between the A. donax and P. australis beds for most parameters. BOD, SS and TN removal in the A. donax and P. australis CWs was 69, 95 and 26 % and 62, 97 and 26 %, respectively. Bacterial removal was observed but only to levels that would allow reuse of the effluent for use on non-food crops under Victorian state regulations. As expected, the A. donax CWs produced considerably more biomass (37 ± 7.2 kg wet weight) than the P. australis CWs (11 ± 1.4 kg wet weight). This standing crop equates to approximately 179 and 68 tonnes ha−1 year−1 biomass (dry weight) for A. donax and P. australis, respectively (assuming a 250-day growing season and single-cut harvest). The performance similarity of the A. donax and P. australis planted CWs indicates that either may be used in HSSF wetlands treating dairy factory wastewater, although the planting of A. donax provides additional opportunities for secondary income streams through utilisation of the biomass produced.

Responsible editor: Elena Maestri