Removal of sewage contaminants in constructed wetlands systems cultivated with Mentha aquatica

ABSTRACT This work was conducted to evaluate the performance of horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetlands (HSSF-CWs) cultivated with Mentha aquatica, subjected to different hydraulic retention times (HRTs), in the removal of organic matter, nutrients and coliform bacteria in sewage effluent from septic tank. Four HSSF-CWs measuring 24.0 × 1.0 × 0.35 m were built and filled with gravel # 0, as a support medium, up to the height of 0.20 m. In two HSSF-CWs, Mentha aquatica was cultivated, the other two remained without vegetation, as control treatment. The experiment was conducted in two stages: in the first, from 06/20 to 08/24/2011, HRTs of 6.0 and 4.5 days were evaluated, and in the second stage, from 08/31 to 11/09/2011, HRTs of 3.0 and 1.5 days were evaluated. To evaluate the systems performance, the following variables were quantified: chemical oxygen demand (COD), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5), total nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, total coliforms and Escherichia coli. Average removal efficiencies of COD ranged from 71.3 to 91.4% and of BOD5 from 75.3 to 91.0%. With respect to nutrients, average removals ranged from 29.5 to 77.2% total N; 12.8 to 58.3% total P; 20.4 to 63.3% total K and 17.5 to 53.4% total Na. Reductions in total coliform counts ranged from 1.29 to 3.41 log units and 1.13 to 3.46 log units in E. coli. Improved efficiencies in the removal of organic matter, nutrients and coliform bacteria were observed in cultivated HSSF-CWs that operated at higher HRT.