Sorption of micropollutants on selected constructed wetland support matrices

Lei, Yu; Langenhoff, Alette; Bruning, Harry; Rijnaarts, Huub


Micropollutants (MPs) are organic chemicals that are present in the environment at low concentrations (ng/L-μg/L), for example pharmaceuticals. A constructed wetland (CW) is a promising post-treatment technique to remove MPs from wastewater effluent. Selecting a suitable material for support matrix is important when designing such a CW. Nine materials were studied as potential support matrices: Light Expanded Clay Aggregates (LECA), compost, bark, granulated activated carbon (GAC), biochar, granulated cork, lava rock, sand and gravel. Batch experiments were conducted to study MP removal by nine materials in phosphate buffer with 5 or 50 μg/L MPs, or wastewater effluent with 50 μg/L of MPs. GAC and biochar removed almost all MPs in both phosphate buffer and wastewater effluent, followed by bark, compost, granulated cork. Sand, gravel, LECA and lava rock removed less than 30% of most MPs in both matrixes. Based on set criteria (e.g. removal efficiency), biochar, bark, compost, LECA and sand were selected, and used in combinations in column studies to test their overall performance. A combination of bark and biochar performed the best on MP removal, as 4 MPs were highly (70%–100%) removed, 4 MPs were moderately (30%–70%) removed while only 3 MPs were hardly removed. The main flow regime of this combination was both plug flow and dispersive flow. Moreover, we hypothesized to apply bark and biochar in a CW. Based on the assumptions and calculations, some benefits are expected, such as increasing MP removal and extending operation time.