Constructed wetland technology is currently evolving into an acceptable, economically competitive alternative for many wastewater treatment applications. Although showing great promise for removing carbonaceous materials from wastewater, wetland systems have not been as successful at nitrification. This is primarily due to oxygen limitations. Nitrification does occur in conventional wetland treatment systems, but typically requires long hydraulic retention times. This paper describes a study that first evaluated the capability of subsurface flow constructed wetlands to treat a high strength seafood processor wastewater and then evaluated passive aeration configurations and effluent recirculation with respect to nitrogen treatment efficiency. The first stage of a 2-stage wetland treatment system exhibited a relatively short hydraulic retention time and was designed for BOD removal only. The second stage wetland employed an unsaturated inlet zone and effluent recirculation to enhance nitrification. Results indicate that organic loading, and thus BOD removal, in the first stage wetland is key to optimal nitrification. Passive aeration through an unsaturated inlet zone and recirculation achieved up to 65-70 per cent ammonia nitrogen removal at hydraulic retention times of about 3.5 days. Inlet zone configuration and effluent recirculation is shown to enhance the nitrogen removal capability of constructed wetland treatment systems.

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