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Nitrogen Transformations Modeling in Subsurface-Flow Constructed Wetlands

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Subsurface-flow constructed wetlands (CWs) wastewater treatment typically results in satisfactory organics removal. However, the removal of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, is often unreliable, and typically less than desired, and nitrogen transformations in wetlands systems are not well-understood. The principal objective of this study was to establish a basis for quantification of nitrogen transformations through subsurface flow CW systems. Actual performance data from a full-scale facility located near Lincoln, Nebraska, were used to calibrate a proposed nitrogen transformations model, which, in turn, was used to replicate and predict the wetlands performance. To realize this objective, a compartmental analysis technique, which uses a set of differential equations and nonlinear optimization numerical methods, was used for solving nitrogen transformation rates and for predicting wetland performance. The model satisfactorily reproduced the mean effluent concentrations for organic nitrogen, ammonium-nitrogen, and nitrate-nitrogen, but with lesser accuracy with respect to peak high and low effluent concentrations. Nitrogen mass balance in the wetland was used to identify likely nitrogen transformation pathways. Generally, it was found that approximately one-third of the influent nitrogen mass was removed through nitrification and denitrification, one-third was removed through vegetative assimilation, and the remainder was discharged in the wetland effluent.

Keywords: modeling; nitrogen; subsurface-flow wetlands; wastewater treatment; wetlands systems

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2005

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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