Environmental Processes

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 115–130 | Cite as

Organic Matter and Nutrient Removal Performance of Horizontal Subsurface Flow Constructed Wetlands Planted with Phragmite karka and Vetiveria zizanioide for Treating Municipal Wastewater

  • Kenatu AngassaEmail author
  • Seyoum Leta
  • Worku Mulat
  • Helmut Kloos
  • Erik Meers
Original Article


Three pilot horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetlands (HSSFCWs) were constructed, covered with a geomembrane and filled with gravel media. The study compared the performance of the three pilot HSSFCWs, two planted with Vetiveria zizanioide and Phragmite karka, and one without plants, and all containing aeration facilities in treating municipal wastewater. HSSFCWs were loaded at a hydraulic loading rate of 0.025 m/d and a maximum organic loading rate of 6.16 g BOD/m2d with a hydraulic retention time of 6 days. Results show that V. zizanioide had better removal efficiencies (TSS: 92.3%; BOD5: 92.0%; PO4 3−: 86.7%) than P. karka (TSS: 91.3%; BOD5: 90.5%; PO4 3−: 85.6%), whereas P. karka showed better removal efficiency of NH4 + (86%), NO3 (81.8%) and SO4 2− (91.7%) than V. zizanioide (NH4 +: 83.4%; NO3 : 81.3%; SO4 2−: 90.5%). Removal rates in unplanted CWs were lower for all parameters: TSS (78%), BOD5 (73%), NH4 + (61.0%), NO3 (55.5%), PO4 3− (67.6%), SO4 2− (78.1%). Higher removals of total coliform (3 log units) and Escherichia coli (2.4 log units) were obtained in the HSSFCW with plants compared to unplanted units (total coliform: 1.9 log units; Escherichia coli: 1.2 log units). Based on these findings, the treated water can be directly disposed into surface water bodies or used for irrigation as the concentrations of the pollutants are below the standard permissible limits of effluent discharge set by EEPA and WHO. Therefore, both V. zizanioide and P. karka are good candidates for remediation of wastewater by a constructed wetland system.


Aeration Constructed wetland Gravel media Pollutant removal 



This work was financed by grants from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, Research Fund for International Young Scientists (Grant Agreement No: W/5799-1).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenatu Angassa
    • 1
    Email author
  • Seyoum Leta
    • 2
  • Worku Mulat
    • 3
  • Helmut Kloos
    • 4
  • Erik Meers
    • 5
  1. 1.Ethiopian Institute of Water ResourceAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  2. 2.Center for Environmental ScienceAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  3. 3.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  4. 4.Department of Epidemiology and BiostatisticsUniversity of California, San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  5. 5.Department of Applied Environmental ChemistryGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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