Vertical-flow reed beds (VFBs) are known to be very effective regarding nitrification. However, a generally accepted design formula for dimensioning reed beds for a controlled nitrification process has still not been found.
Especially for the purpose of nitrification a vertical-flow reed bed (VFB) has been installed following an existing unaerated pond-system. The paper presents the results concerning the limits of the VFB's performance as well as the main factors influencing the nitrification process gained by balancing the conversion rates under different loads. Even under high loads the VFB provides an excellent nitrification performance, which is mainly influenced by the wastewater temperature. The ammonia oxidation rate is about 90% at temperatures over 10°C; at temperatures below 5°C the average nitrification rate is still approximately 50%. The hydraulic load and the TKN load have almost no impact on this efficiency (the maximum load has been: 180 mm/d, 7.1 g TKN/(m2*d)). The redox potenial, which is continuously measured in the effluent of the reed bed, proved to be dependent on the current nitrification performance and the oxygen supply of the VFB, and therefore appears to be a suitable control parameter for the operation of VFBs.