The objective of this work is to evaluate the performance of two horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetlands, one planted with cattail (Typha latifolia) and the other unplanted. The distinguishing feature of this study is that it spans a period of more than 10 years, from start-up to a final operation with heavy clogging and full overland flow. For most of the time, starting in June 2007, the system received municipal sewage previously treated in an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) reactor, but for one specific period, the pre-treatment was comprised of the UASB reactor and a trickling filter in series. The two constructed wetlands worked in parallel, each serving approximately 50 p.e. and continuously receiving a flow around 7.5 m3 d−1 for most of the time. The beds had a length of 25 m and a width of 3 m and were filled with blast furnace slag. For most of this long operational period, performance was very good in terms of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD) and total suspended solids (TSS), with median effluent concentrations of 19/18, 46/52 and 12/8, respectively (planted/unplanted units). Clogging was noticeable in the first years of operation, soon leading to overland flow. However, treatment performance was still successful, even when the system's hydraulics were strongly deteriorated. The type of pre-treatment and the applied loads influenced more the performance of the units than the period of operation itself, evidencing the robustness of the system.

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