The management of sewage sludge has recently become one of the most significant challenges in wastewater management. Reed bed systems appear to be an efficient and economical solution for sludge management in small wastewater treatment plants. Four years ago, one of the holding companies for water and wastewater in central Italy adopted this technology in 6 wastewater treatment plants. Hydraulic and biochemical analyses were performed on the most representative site to asses the behaviour of reed beds with regard to dewatering, mineralization and humification of disposed sludge. Moreover, daily water content analysis were performed in the interval between subsequent sludge loadings. Results indicated a decrease of sludge volume by about 93% on a yearly basis. Biochemical analysis highlighted that mineralization processes decrease over time due to a rapid decrease of microbial activity and labile substrates, such as DHase enzyme and water-soluble carbon and ammonium, respectively. Moreover, a significant interrelationship between the parameters linked with mineralization was found: after two years of operation, the process of mineralization of organic matter is still predominant in the humification of organic matter. Daily water content data were used to define a semi empirical equation describing the dynamics of the dewatering process. Overall, the use of sludge reed beds resulted feasible, ecologically sustainable and cost-effective.

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