Substrate clogging is by far the biggest operational problem of vertical flow constructed wetlands. The term “substrate clogging” summarises several processes which lead to reduction of the infiltration capacity at the substrate surface. The lower infiltration rate causes a reduced oxygen supply and further leads to a rapid failure of the treatment performance. Reasons for substrate clogging include accumulation of suspended solids, surplus sludge production, chemical precipitation and deposition in the pores, growth of plant-rhizomes and roots, generation of gas and compaction of the clogging layer. However, it is not clear how much each process contributes to the clogging process. Detailed investigations were carried out at pilot-scale constructed wetlands (PSCWs) using a variety of methods: e.g. soil physical investigations, microbial methods, and various analysis methods of drinking water and wastewater. The paper shows the results of these investigations and presents an equation to calculate the theoretical clogging time.

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