The use of constructed wetlands for the treatment of urban runoff
In 1995, the Environment Agency for England and Wales developed urban runoff treatment wetlands at two selected locations in Outer London. The systems have been monitored for a wide range of parameters including heavy metals, suspended solids and BOD over a period of two years. Seven storm events were also monitored. The ability of micro-organisms, isolated from the rhizosphere of wetland plants collected at both systems, to tolerate and accumulate heavy metals has also been investigated. This study has demonstrated that constructed wetland treatment systems are capable of reducing the pollutant loadings associated with urban runoff, and that such systems can be successfully established within urban areas. During dry weather, pollutant concentrations and loadings were typically low and associated removal efficiencies highly variable. However, during storm events, pollutant loadings increased and removal efficiencies improved, with mean removal efficiencies of 71% for Pb and 81% for Cr at the Dagenham wetland. An exception to this was for suspended solids which showed an overall increase of 99% during storm events. Several design and operational issues have been identified and addressed during the course of the monitoring programme, and recommendations for the improved design and operation of urban runoff treatment wetland systems have been made. A range of micro-organisms, isolated from both wetland systems, were able to tolerate elevated Zn and Pb concentrations. Two strains (Beauveria bassiana and Rhodotorula mucilaginosa) were selected for further work. Both strains could accumulate Zn and Pb, with B. bassiana showing a high capacity to bind Pb (maximum concentration of 136mgPb/g cells dry weight). Comparison of the growth of B. bassiana at 4°C and 30°C suggested that processes of microbial metal accumulation may occur throughout the year in treatment wetlands. The presence of Pb inside hyphae of B. bassiana, associated with hyphae walls and in the surrounding medium was confirmed. This study has found that micro-organisms isolated from urban runoff treatment wetlands can tolerate and accumulate Zn and Pb, and the application of these results to wetland treatment processes is discussed.