This study investigated the performance of sludge drying reed beds (SDRB) at full- and pilot-scale treating sludge from septic tanks in the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The treatment units, planted with Cynodon spp., were based on an adaptation of the first-stage of the French vertical-flow constructed wetland, originally developed for treating sewage. Two different operational phases were investigated; in the first one, the full-scale unit was used together with six pilot-scale columns in order to test different feeding strategies. For the second phase, only the full-scale unit was used, including a recirculation of the filtered effluent (percolate) to one of the units of the French vertical wetland. Sludge application was done once a week emptying a full truck, during 25 weeks. The sludge was predominantly diluted, leading to low solids loading rates (median values of 18 kgTS m−2year−1). Chemical oxygen demand removal efficiency in the full-scale unit was reasonable (median of 71%), but the total solids removal was only moderate (median of 44%) in the full-scale unit without recirculation. Recirculation did not bring substantial improvements in the overall performance. The other loading conditions implemented in the pilot columns also did not show statistically different performances.

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