This work focuses on the performance evaluation of two full-scale horizontal suburface flow constructed wetlands (H-SSF CWs) working in parallel, which have an almost equal surface area (about 2,000 m2) but with different operational lives: 8 and 3 years. Both H-SSF CWs, located in Southern Italy (Sicily), are used for tertiary treatment of the effluent of a conventional wastewater treatment plant. This study evaluates and compares H-SSF CW efficiency both in terms of water quality improvement (removal percentage) and achievement of Italian wastewater discharge and irrigation reuse limits. The mean removal percentage, for the overall operational life, of TSS, COD and BOD (80%, 63%, 58% obtained for H-SSF1 and 67%, 38%, 41% for H-SSF2), confirm the high reliability of CWs for wastewater treatment. However, despite the satisfactory removal of microbial indicators (the mean E. coli removal was up to 2.5 log unit for both beds), CWs didn't achieve the Italian limits for wastewater reuse. Information on hydraulic properties of the CWs were extracted from breakthrough curves of a non-reactive tracer (NaCl). By comparing the nominal (τn) and actual residence time (τ), hydraulic behaviour was revealed.

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