Reed beds (horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetlands) have been employed as secondary treatment devices in on-site and decentralised wastewater management systems in the northeast of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) for over a decade. This paper summarises some of the practical and research findings that have come to light in that time. Experience with various aspects of reed bed structure is discussed. A study of the evaporative performance of four small beds planted with Phragmites australis yielded an annual crop factor of 2.6. A total of 28 studies on reed beds treating a variety of commonly encountered wastewater streams yielded the following mean pollutant removal efficiencies: total suspended solids (TSS) 83%, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) 81%, total nitrogen (TN) 57%, total phosphorus (TP) 35% and faecal coliforms (FC) 1.9 logs. The reed bed is becoming the preferred on-site technology for removing TN and BOD and polishing TSS from primary settled domestic wastewater. Sizing beds for a residence time of approximately five days has become standard practice. A study of six reed beds found six different species of earthworm present, mainly Perionyx excavatus (Indian Blue). A mesocosm experiment subsequently showed that the worms were translocating clogging material from the substrate interstices to the surface of the bed thereby indicating a possible method for prolonging reed bed life.

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