Soil aquifer treatment (SAT) is an established and sustainable wastewater treatment approach for water reuse that has been gaining increased attention in various countries around the world. Increasing volumes of domestic wastewater and escalating real estate prices around urban areas emphasize the urgent need to maximize the treatment efficiency by revisiting the SAT setup. In this study, a novel approach was examined to increase biodegradation rates and improve the quality of SAT topsoil effluent. Experiments with midscale, custom-made columns were carried out with sand collected from an operational SAT and a highly permeable natural material with high internal porosity, tuff, which was maturated (i.e., buried in the SAT infiltration basin) for 3 months. The filtration efficiency, biodegradation rates of organic material, microbial diversity, and outflow quality were compared between the operational SAT sand and the tuff using state-of-the-art approaches. The results of this study indicate that biodegradation rates (9.2 µg C g−1
) and filtration efficiency were up to 2.5-fold higher within the tuff than the SAT sand. Furthermore, the biofilm community was markedly different between the two media, giving additional insights into the bacterial phyla responsible for biodegradation. The results highlight the advantage of using highly porous material to enhance the SAT filtration efficiency without extending the topsoil volume. Hence, infusing a permeable medium, comprising highly porous material, into the SAT topsoil could offer a simple approach to upgrade an already advantageous SAT in both developed and developing countries.
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