Capacity of a horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetland system for the removal of emerging pollutants: an injection experiment

Chemosphere. 2010 Nov;81(9):1137-42. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2010.08.006. Epub 2010 Sep 22.


A continuous injection experiment was implemented in a pilot-scale horizontal subsurface flow constructed wetland system to evaluate the behavior of four pharmaceuticals and personal care products (i.e. ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac and tonalide) and a phenolic estrogenic compound (i.e. bisphenol A). The treatment system consisted of an anaerobic reactor as a primary treatment, followed by two 0.65 m² wetlands (B1 and B2) working in parallel and connected to a 1.65 m² wetland (B3) operating in series. Overall removal efficiencies for the selected compounds ranged from 97% to 99%. The response curves of the injected pollutants show that the behavior of these compounds strongly depends on their sorption and biodegradation characteristics. While about 50% of ibuprofen was removed in B1 and B2, 99% was achieved at B3, where the dissolved oxygen concentration was significantly higher (B1-B2=0.5 mg L⁻¹ and B3=5.4 mg L⁻¹). Naproxen and diclofenac were efficiently removed (93%) in B1 and B2, revealing anaerobic degradation as a probable removal mechanism. Moreover, tonalide and bisphenol A were readily removed in the small wetlands (94% and 83%, respectively), where the removal of total suspended solids was 93%. Therefore, given their high hydrophobicity, sorption onto the particulate matter stands for the major removal mechanism. However, the tentative identification of carboxy-bisphenol A as an intermediate degradation product in B3 suggested biodegradation as a relevant bisphenol A removal pathway under aerobic prevailing conditions.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / analysis
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / chemistry*
  • Diclofenac / analysis
  • Diclofenac / chemistry
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation
  • Ibuprofen / analysis
  • Ibuprofen / chemistry
  • Naproxen / analysis
  • Naproxen / chemistry
  • Perfume / analysis
  • Perfume / chemistry*
  • Tetrahydronaphthalenes / analysis
  • Tetrahydronaphthalenes / chemistry
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / methods*
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*
  • Wetlands*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Perfume
  • Tetrahydronaphthalenes
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Diclofenac
  • acetyl methyl tetramethyl tetralin
  • Naproxen
  • Ibuprofen