Purification of leachate from sludge treatment beds by subsurface flow constructed wetlands: effects of plants and hydraulic retention time

  • Shanshan Hu
  • Zhongbing Chen
  • Zuopeng Lv
  • Ke Chen
  • Liangliang Huang
  • Xingtao Zuo
  • Jiajie He
  • Yi ChenEmail author
Research Article


Sludge treatment beds (STBs) have been used widely in many countries due to low energy consumption, low operating and maintenance costs, and better environmental compatibility. Penetration, evaporation, and transpiration are the main processes for sludge dewatering in STBs. However, the leachate quality from STBs usually cannot meet discharge limits. Moreover, such leachate has very low COD/N ratio, which makes it difficult to treat. In the present study, two subsurface flow (SSF) constructed wetlands (CWs) were investigated for the treatment of leachate from STBs under three different hydraulic retention time (HRT) (3 days, 4 days, 6 days), aiming for evaluating the effects of plants and HRT on treatment performance, as well as the potential of SSF CWs to treat sludge leachate with low COD/N ration. The results showed that plants play an important role in leachate treatment. The best treatment performance was achieved with HRT of 4 days. In this condition, the mean removal efficiencies of COD (chemical oxygen demand), NH4+-N, TN (total nitrogen), and TP (total phosphorus) in the planted and the unplanted CWs were 61.6% (unplanted − 3.7%), 76.6% (unplanted 43.5%), 70% (unplanted 41%), and 65.6% (unplanted 6%), respectively. Heavy metal concentrations were below the Chinese integrated wastewater discharge standard during the experimental period in the planted CW, and the removal efficiencies in the planted CW system were higher than in the unplanted CW system. In all, planted SSF CWs can be an effective approach in removing leachate from sludge treatment beds. Furthermore, considering to temperature and seasonal variation, the leachate from STBs needs to be further studied in pilot- and full-scale condition.


Constructed wetland Sludge leachate Sludge treatment beds Water purification 



The authors are grateful to Mark Francis Sixsmith for revising the English language.


Shanshan Hu received support from the China Scholarship Council for the PhD scholarship (CSC, No. 201706760061). This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Hubei Province (Grant no. 2014CFB928).

Supplementary material

11356_2018_4006_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Table SM1 Characteristics of the sludge leachate entering the two CWs (DOCX 18 kb)
11356_2018_4006_Fig8_ESM.png (91 kb)
Fig. SM1

Air temperature and humidity trend under the different hydraulic retention time. (PNG 90 kb)

11356_2018_4006_MOESM2_ESM.tif (6.2 mb)
High resolution image (TIF 6302 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Applied Ecology, Faculty of Environmental SciencesCzech University of Life Sciences PraguePragueCzech Republic
  2. 2.The Key Laboratory of Biotechnology for Medicinal Plants of Jiangsu ProvinceJiangsu Normal UniversityXuzhouChina
  3. 3.College of Resources and Environmental ScienceSouth-Central University for NationalitiesWuhanChina
  4. 4.College of Environmental Science and EngineeringGuilin University of TechnologyGuilinChina
  5. 5.College of Resources and EnvironmentHuazhong Agricultural UniversityWuhanChina
  6. 6.Key Laboratory of the Three Gorges Reservoir Region’s Eco-Environment, Ministry of EducationChongqing UniversityChongqingPeople’s Republic of China

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