This paper describes a case study that was carried out on a Sicilian company (Italy) dealing with separate waste collection and recycling of glass. The aims of this study were to evaluate the overall efficiency of a vertical subsurface flow system (VSSFs) constructed wetland (CW) operating for the treatment of first-flush stormwater and the effects of treated wastewater on the morphological and aesthetic characteristics of ornamental pepper and rosemary plants. The system had a total surface area of 46.80 m2
and was planted with common reed and giant reed. Wastewater samples were taken from October 2018 to July 2019 at the CW inlet and outlet for chemical-physical and microbiological characterization of the wastewater. Two separate experimental fields of rosemary and ornamental pepper were set up in another Sicilian location. Three sources of irrigation water, two accessions of rosemary and two varieties of ornamental pepper were tested in a split-plot design for a two-factor experiment. The results showed very high organic pollutant removal (BOD5
75–83%, COD 65–69%) and a good efficiency of nutrients (TN 60–66%) and trace metals (especially for Cu and Zn) removal. Escherichia coli
concentration levels were always lower than 100 CFU 100 mL−1
during the test period. Irrigation water and plant habitus had significant effects on all the morphological and aesthetic characteristics of the plants. For both the crops, plants irrigated with freshwater and treated wastewater had greater growth and showed a better general appearance in comparison with plants irrigated with wastewater. The higher trace metal levels in the wastewater produced adverse effects on plant growth and reduced the visual quality of the plants. Our results suggest the suitability of a VSSFs constructed wetland for the treatment of first-flush stormwater and the reuse of treated wastewater for irrigation purposes, in accordance with legislation requirements concerning wastewater quality.
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