This paper presents the design of a constructed wetland (CW) system in an area with limited land availability, resulting in high hydraulic loads. The CW was constructed to act as a buffering/ polishing step after stabilization ponds for steel industry wastewater post-treatment. A pilot test with two different filter media (50–100mm vs 40–60mm diameter) indicated that a flow rate increase from 49.5 m3/h to 122.4 m3/h would lead to a head loss increase from 2.9cm to 8.7cm, and more than double that for the finer gravel. This was substantially higher than the calculated theoretical values, though the relation with flow rate was similar. Four full scale wetland cells (CW1, CW2, CW3 and CW4) were constructed using the coarser gravel. A design value of total head loss of 1.01m over the total system length, with a design flow of 36,000 m3/day, was expected based on pilot test results. During the first operation year (September 2017 to July 2018), the pond-CW system has received wastewater already meeting required discharge standards. The effluent from the CWs had consistently lower concentrations of all measured variables, and met the predicted values for biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5), total nitrogen (TN) and NH4+-N. Highest removal efficiencies were achieved for NH4+-N (>90%), Mn (>60%) and Fe (45%) with removal efficiencies for TN (14%), BOD5 and chemical oxygen demand (COD) (around 30%). Concentrations of phenol, CN− and Cr6+ were below 10, 4 and 3μg/l, respectively, in in- and outflows. An appreciated benefit of the wetland was the ‘green element’ in the industrial landscape.