A pilot scale subsurface flow wetland, commissioned in 1986, has been continuously operated since 1990 at a hydraulic load of 330 mm/day and a corresponding organic load of 1200 kg/ha·day. At these loading rates preliminary evidence suggests that the microbial biomass in the wetland was dominated by anaerobes. Attempts to increase the hydraulic load resulted in surface flooding which was attributed to suspended solids clogging the surface. Despite short circuiting, revealed by tracer studies, COD removal exceeded 70%. The hydraulic flow through the wetland was modelled and was described as modified plug flow with a degree of back mixing. A comparative costing exercise revealed that the unit treatment cost of a combination of a subsurface flow wetland/nitrification column, surface flow wetland was lower than that of an activated sludge system treating the same volume of effluent.

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