The retention of heavy metals at two pilot-scale treatment wetlands (TWs), consisting of two vertical flow beds (VSSF) followed by a horizontal flow bed (HSSF) was studied. The TWs received high-strength wastewater: reject waters from sewage sludge centrifugation (RW) and landfill leachate (LL). The concentrations of the metals Fe, Mn, Zn, Al, Pb, Cu, Cd, Co, and Ni were measured in treated wastewater, substrate of the beds and in plant material harvested from the beds (separately in above ground (ABG) parts and below ground (BG) parts). The TWs differed in metals retention. In the RW treating TW the metal removal efficiencies varied from 27% for Pb to over 97% for Fe and Al. In the LL treating system the concentrations of most metals decreased after VSSF-1 and VSSF-2 beds; however, in the outflow from the last (HSSF) bed, the concentrations of metals (apart from Al) increased again, probably due to the anaerobic conditions at the bed. A major removal pathway was sedimentation and adsorption onto soil substrate as well as precipitation and co-precipitation. In the LL treating facility the plants contained substantially higher metal concentrations in BG parts, while the upward movement of metals was restricted. In the RW treating facility the BG/ABG ratios were lower, indicating that metals were transported to shoots.

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