Compared with other forms of domestic wastewater treatment, reed beds require very little in the way of operational and maintenance input. This is even more markedly the case with tertiary treatment systems (than with secondary treatment systems) where the necessary maintenance amounts to only a few days/year. Unfortunately, in practice this frequently results in them receiving little or no attention at all. Tertiary treatment reed beds are not a “fit and forget” solution but they are often treated this way because they are very forgiving and abuse-tolerant. After a number of years a few of these tertiary reed beds have deteriorated to an extent whereby they are close to failing to comply with the regulator's requirements. Severn Trent Water Ltd has recognised this situation and has committed a budget for a programme of reed bed maintenance. This work has started with a survey of the condition of their beds and particularly to determine the common problems and hence the maintenance regime required. Five main problems occurred either singly or in combination namely: (a) sludge deposition; (b) above surface flooding (partially caused by (a), (c), and (d)); (c) inlet flow distributor problems/clogging; (d) outlet collector problems/incorrect level; (e) weed infestation.

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