ABSTRACT: Comparisons of the performance of constructed-wetland systems (CWs) for treating domestic wastewater in the laboratory and field may use pathogen-free synthetic wastewater to avoid regulatory health concerns. However, little to no data are available describing
the relative treatment efficiencies of CWs to both actual and synthetic domestic wastewaters so as to enable such comparison. To fill this gap, treatment performances with respect to organics (chemical organic demand; COD) and nitrogen (ammonium and nitrate) removal from domestic (septic tank)
and a similar-strength synthetic wastewater under planted and non-planted subsurface-flow CWs are determined. One pair of CWs was planted with cattails in May 2008, whereas the adjacent system was non-planted. Collected septic tank or synthesized wastewater was allowed to gravity feed each
CWs, and effluent samples were collected and tested for COD and nitrogen species regularly during four different periods over six months. Overall, statistically significant greater removal of COD (∼12%) and nitrogen (∼5%) occurred from the synthetic as compared with the domestic wastewater
from the planted and non-planted CWs. Effluent BOD5/COD ratios from the synthetic wastewater CWs averaged nearly twice that from the domestic wastewater CWs (0.17 vs 0.10), reflecting greater concentrations of readily degraded compounds. That removal fractions were consistent across
the mid-range loading rates to the CWs suggests that the synthetic wastewater can be used in testing laboratory CWs with reasonable success in application of their results to the field .
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