A two-stage system for treating high-strength wastewater from an abattoir at Pachuca, Mexico is described. The system consists of an anaerobic digester followed by an artificially-constructed wetland which employs horizontal subsurface flow through the root zone of emergent hydrophytes planted in a gravel substrate. The main goals of this study were to monitor the treatment efficiency of the system for the first twelve months of operation and to assess the suitability of the effluent for irrigation purposes. The treatment efficiency during the twelve month period was generally good with mean removal efficiencies of 88.5% for BOD5, 87.4% COD, 89% suspended solids, 73.6% organic nitrogen and >99% faecal coliforms. Removal rates were generally poor for orthophosphates, NH3-nitrogen and NO3-nitrogen. The differing roles of the two stages in the treatment process are discussed. Although not suitable for irrigating crops, the effluent is being successfully used for the irrigation of ornamental plants and recreational lands.

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