French legislation requires the control of private on-site sanitation systems by local authorities. This will result in a large increase of the quantity of sludge from septic tanks to be treated. Nevertheless, large wastewater treatment plants are not systematically able to treat this sludge because they may have reached their nominal load or they are not so numerous in rural zone to avoid too long transportation. The study concerns both the feasibility of sludge reed beds devoted to the treatment of septage and the assessment of a simultaneous treatment with aerated sludge. The experiments have been carried out on eight pilot-scale drying reed beds (2 m2) planted with Phragmites australis. Two filtration layers of either vegetal compost or sand were tested. The study is focused on the commissioning period (first vegetative year) with a loading rate of 30 kg SS m−2 yr−1. According to these operational conditions, dewatering efficiencies reached approx. 30% DM during summer but less than 20%DM in winter for each filtration layer and sludge. High removal efficiencies, with an average of 96%, 92% and 89% for SS, COD and TKN respectively, were achieved with septage whereas they were lower for the mixture of aerated sludge and septage. The dewaterability of septage and its filtration behaviour were assessed by several parameters (Capillary Suction Time, bound water) which may be some interesting tools for an optimised loading strategy.

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