This work evaluated the performance of a full-scale system with wetlands for slaughterhouse (abattoir) effluent treatment in the State of Hidalgo, México. The treatment system consisted of a primary sedimentation tank, an anaerobic lagoon, and a constructed subsurface-flow wetland,
in series. The wetland accounted for almost 30% of the removal of organic matter. In general, the treatment system achieved satisfactory pollutant removals, but the final effluent could not meet the Mexican environmental regulations for fecal coliform counts, five-day biochemical oxygen demand
(BOD5), and total suspended solids (TSS). Overall, removal levels were 91%, 89%, and 85% for BOD5, chemical oxygen demand, and TSS, respectively. However, BOD5 in the final effluent (137 mg/L) was higher than the maximum level of 30 mg/L allowed by the regulatory
agency. Although organic nitrogen removal levels were approximately 80%, the nitrogen persisted in oxidation state – 3 as ammonia–nitrogen, the removal of which was only 9% in the wetland stage. On average, phosphorus removal was null, and, on occasion, the phosphorus concentration
in the treated effluent was higher than that of the influent. Coliform reductions in the overall system were high (on the order of 5 logs on average), whereas the coliform removal in the wetland was between 2 to 3.5 logs. The treatment system was also effective at removing pathogens (Vibrio
cholerae, Salmonella , and Shigella). Further laboratory tests with the wetland effluent suggest that post treatment in a sand filter stage followed by disinfection with sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) could help meet the Mexican discharge regulations, particularly the criteria for coliforms
and total BOD5.
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