In order to move towards optimising wastewater treatment performance by vertical down-flow reed beds, user and installer demands were applied to design, resulting in the “compact vertical flow reed bed” (CVF bed). Performance data are presented for the two years since commissioning a CVF bed and pond system serving eight residents. Particular emphasis was placed on investigating oxygen transfer rate and susceptibility to hydraulic overloading. Average percentage concentration reduction effected by single passage through the bed exceeded 97% for suspended solids and biochemical oxygen demand, and 90% for ammoniacal nitrogen and total Kjeldahl nitrogen. The occurrence of nitrification and denitrification (up to 58%) within the same bed was clearly indicated. Percentage ortho-phosphate removal averaged 92% over the first 17 months’ operation and thereafter fell to approximately 45%. Faecal coliform density underwent an almost four log reduction. Oxygen transfer rate within the reed bed was between 28-36 gO2/m2.d. Normal operation was maintained until six times dry weather hydraulic load rate was exceeded, at which point surface flooding occurred. The capacity of a single vertical flow reed bed to achieve effective treatment of domestic sewage was demonstrated, with no requirement for reduced load rates, promising substantial advantages over established approaches.

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