Effects of salinity on the treatment of synthetic petroleum-industry wastewater in pilot vertical flow constructed wetlands under simulated hot arid climatic conditions

Wagner, Thomas V.; Al-Manji, Fatma; Xue, Jie; Wetser, Koen; Wilde, Vinnie de; Parsons, John R.; Rijnaarts, Huub H.M.; Langenhoff, Alette A.M.


Petroleum-industry wastewater (PI-WW) is a potential source of water that can be reused in areas suffering from water stress. This water contains various fractions that need to be removed before reuse, such as light hydrocarbons, heavy metals and conditioning chemicals. Constructed wetlands (CWs) can remove these fractions, but the range of PI-WW salinities that can be treated in CWs and the influence of an increasing salinity on the CW removal efficiency for abovementioned fractions is unknown. Therefore, the impact of an increasing salinity on the removal of conditioning chemicals benzotriazole, aromatic hydrocarbon benzoic acid, and heavy metal zinc in lab-scale unplanted and Phragmites australis and Typha latifolia planted vertical-flow CWs was tested in the present study. P. australis was less sensitive than T. latifolia to increasing salinities and survived with a NaCl concentration of 12 g/L. The decay of T. latifolia was accompanied by a decrease in the removal efficiency for benzotriazole and benzoic acid, indicating that living vegetation enhanced the removal of these chemicals. Increased salinities resulted in the leaching of zinc from the planted CWs, probably as a result of active plant defence mechanisms against salt shocks that solubilized zinc. Plant growth also resulted in substantial evapotranspiration, leading to an increased salinity of the CW treated effluent. A too high salinity limits the reuse of the CW treated water. Therefore, CW treatment should be followed by desalination technologies to obtain salinities suitable for reuse. In this technology train, CWs enhance the efficiency of physicochemical desalination technologies by removing organics that induce membrane fouling. Hence, P. australis planted CWs are a suitable option for the treatment of water with a salinity below 12 g/L before further treatment or direct reuse in water scarce areas worldwide, where CWs may also boost the local biodiversity. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]