Assessment of spatial representativity of X-ray tomography to study Vertical Flow Treatment wetlands

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Apr 15;713:136510. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.136510. Epub 2020 Jan 11.


French Vertical Flow (VF) treatment wetlands receive raw wastewater and provide simultaneous sludge and wastewater treatment. For proper sludge handling, the treatment wetland must be designed adequately and specific operational conditions must be maintained. When these conditions are not met, accumulation of biosolids may lead to clogging. Filtration in French VF Treatment wetlands is governed by mechanisms at the pore-scale. They must be better understood to predict reliably biosolid accumulation. X-ray Computed Tomography (Xray-CT) is a promising technique to characterize in detail the morphology of the filtering media in treatment wetlands. In order to set a solid basis for the use of Xray-CT, the spatial representativity of measurements must be assessed. This issue is addressed in this study by successively analyzing spatial properties at the filter scale using Frequency Domain Electromagnetic Measurements (FDEMs), and at the pore scale using Xray-CT. A map of the electric conductivity at the surface of a French VF Treatment wetland is obtained by FDEM that indicates a homogeneous distribution of biosolids to which electrical conductivity is highly correlated. Different morphological properties were computed from Xray-CT after phase segmentation: phase volume fraction profiles, Specific Surface Area profiles and pore size distributions. Samples show several similarities of pore scale properties obtained by Xray-CT independently of the sampling region and especially the same vertical gradients. FDEM measurements and Xray-CT analysis are in agreement to indicate a good influent distribution at the surface of a full-scale mature French VF Treatment wetland. A criterion to define the limits of the deposit layer and gravel layer is introduced. This division allows to compare layers independently. Finally, a 2D-REV analysis suggests that the selected sample diameter of 5 cm is large enough to be representative of the heterogeneous distribution of phases at the pore-scale as long as no Phragmites are present.

Keywords: Clogging; Constructed wetlands; Pore size distribution; Representative elementary volume; Specific Surface Area.

MeSH terms

  • Tomography, X-Ray
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Waste Water
  • Wetlands*


  • Waste Water