The removal of sanitary indicator bacteria (total coliforms, faecal coliforms, and faecal streptococci) was studied in an experimental constructed wetland system consisting of (1) a 2-m3 three-chamber sedimentation tank, (2) a 5 m2 vertical flow constructed wetland, (3) a filter-unit with calcite aimed at removing phosphorus, and (4) a 10 m2 vertical flow constructed wetland. The indicator bacteria were enumerated before and after each unit of the wetland system during four monitoring episodes with different loading conditions. At a hydraulic loading rate of 520-1,370 mm/d, the first-stage vertical flow beds removed about 1.5 log-units of total coliforms, 1.7 log-units of faecal coliforms and 0.8 log-units of faecal streptococci. In the second stage bed receiving lower loadings both in term of concentration and quantity (260-690 mm/day), the eliminations were lower. It was not possible in the present study to identify any seasonal effects, but no measurements were done during summer. Recycling of treated effluent back to the sedimentation tank did not affect elimination. Area-based rate constants for the vertical flow wetland receiving effluent from the sedimentation tank averaged 3.2 m/d for total coliforms, 3.3 m/d for faecal coliforms and 2.1 m/d for faecal streptococci. The rate constants depended on loading rates. It is suggested that filtration is a major removal mechanism for bacterial indicator organisms in vertical flow constructed wetland systems.

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