Scientists at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are continuing to develop and refine an innovative wastewater treatment system referred to as reciprocating subsurface-flow constructed wetlands. Reciprocation relates to patented improvements in the design and operation of paired subsurface-flow constructed wetlands, such that contiguous cells are filled and drained on a frequent and recurrent basis. This operating technique turns the entire wetland system into a fixed-film biological reactor, in which it is possible to control redox potential in alternating aerobic and anaerobic zones. Reciprocating systems enable manipulation of wastewater treatment functions by controlling such parameters as hydraulic retention time, frequency of reciprocation, reciprocation cycle time, depth of reciprocation, and size and composition of substrate. These improved wetland technologies have been used for treating municipal/domestic wastewater, high strength animal wastewater, and mixed wastewater streams containing acids, recalcitrant compounds, solvents, antifreeze compounds, heavy metals, explosives, and fertilizer nutrients. Results from selected treatability studies and field demonstrations will be summarized with respect to conceptual design and treatment efficacy.

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