Gravel Bed Hydroponics (GBH) is a constructed wetland system for sewage treatment which has proved effective for tertiary treatment in the UK and secondary treatment in Egypt. Significant improvements in effluent quality have been observed in 100 m long field scale beds planted with Phragmites australis, resulting in large reductions in BOD, suspended solids and ammoniacal N. For such GBH beds, operating optimally with a residence time of about 6 hours, 2 to 3 log cycle reductions in the counts of indicator bacteria, certain bacterial pathogens and viruses are typically obtained. However, the efficiency of mineralisation was strongly influenced by flow-rate and the prevailing temperature. In addition, in the UK, overloading of the treatment system reduced the efficiency of removal of faecal coliforms, probably due to decreased adsorption to biofilms. Faecal coliform counts were also more strongly correlated to BOD than suspended solids. As a secondary treatment process, pathogen removal was consistently better in Egypt than the UK. Although GBH constructed wetlands do not fully satisfy the WHO guidelines for unrestricted irrigation, they can make a significant contribution to the control of pathogens in developing countries.

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