A constructed wetland system, consisting of a surface-flow wetland cell connected in series with three vertical subsurface-flow wetland cells, was tested for treatment of domestic sewage from rural families in southern China. Diatomite, vermiculate, zeolite and hydrotalcite, were used, respectively, as filler adsorbents in the sequenced subsurface-flow cells for adsorption of organic, cationic and anionic pollutants. Selected trees, shrubs and annual herbs were planted to form a wetland plant community. The total treatment capacity, hydraulic loading rate and water retention time were 2 m3
/d, 0.5 m/d and 48 h, respectively. Experimental data obtained from a year operation confirmed that the treatment process followed the dynamic pathway of pollutant transformation. The constructed system was effective to remove TSS, CODCr
and their effluent concentrations met the first grade of the discharge standards legislated in China. The removal rates of TN, NH3
-N and TP were relatively lower, and their effluent concentrations fell within the range between the first and second grade of the standards. An increase in initial pollutant loading and a decrease in temperature in winter caused apparent accumulation of TN, NH3
-N and TP in the system. Discharge of sludge at adequate intervals was shown to be effective to enhance the treatment efficiency.
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