The performance of slow rate (SR) systems in terms of treatment efficiency, environmental and health risks, and land sustainability was investigated over a three-year period in a rural community close to Iraklio, Greece. Four plant species (Acacia cyanophylla, Eucalyptus camandulensis, Populus nigra and Arundo donax) were used in order to investigate the role of vegetation in the treatment of wastewater and in biomass production. Wastewater effluent was pre-treated in a septic tank before its application to land. Applied hydraulic loading rates were based on crop water requirements which were determined separately for each plant species. The evaluation of treatment performance was accomplished by measuring COD, TKN, NH3-N, NO3-N, total and reactive P, TC and FC in soil solution samples taken at different depths (15, 30 and 60 cm). SR systems showed great potential for COD, TKN and NH4-N removal which reached 89, 90 and 94%, respectively at a depth of 15 cm. An outstanding removal was also observed for TC and FC which reached 99.99%. The concentration of both P and NO3-N in soil solution increased with the passage of time, but it was lower in winter. Despite the differences in the application rates among the SR systems planted with different plant species, the treatment efficiency was not affected. Moreover, increasing the soil depth from 15 to 60 cm had no effect on the treatment efficiency of the SR systems.

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