In a first phase of this study it was shown that the Austrian effluent standards for organic matter could not be met in winter for vertical flow (VF) beds designed for and loaded with 27 g COD.m−2.d−1 (3 m2 per person equivalent). The aim of this second phase of the study was to investigate, if the performance of a constructed wetland can be enhanced, i.e. if the effluent requirements can be met, when an additional gravel layer (15 cm, 4–8 mm) is added on top of the main layer of the VF bed. The hypothesis was that this top layer would increase the thermal insulation and consequently the temperatures in the filter bed during cold periods, thus resulting in higher removal efficiencies during winter. Two VF beds were operated in parallel; one bed with such a 15 cm top layer, one without. Otherwise the construction of both beds was identical: surface area of about 20 m2, 50 cm main layer (grain size 0.06–4 mm, d10=0.2 mm; d60=0.8 mm), planted with common reed (Phragmites australis). The beds were intermittently loaded 4 times per day with mechanically pre-treated wastewater (hydraulic loading: 47 mm.d−1; median value of the influent concentration: 505 mg COD.L−1). Despite a better performance during the first winter, the bed with additional top layer showed in general a very unstable performance. It is assumed that the main reason for this was that the oxygen transfer was reduced by the additional top layer so far that suspended organic matter could not any longer be degraded in between loadings. Therefore clogging of the filter occurred.

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