Applications of Reed Bed Treatment Systems :
Reed Bed Treatment Systems are being used throughout the world to treat a wide variety of wastewaters. In addition to domestic sewage, they have been successfully employed in the treatment of agricultural and industrial pollution, and are ideally suited to most forms of organic pollution. Although not all wastewater requires treatment, there are several scenarios where a RBTS is the most viable form of treatment :
Domestic Sewage Treatment : In simple terms, any site which fails local Building Codes for groundwater level and percolation tests can benefit from installation of a RBTS, and this is usually the most cost-effective solution.
Sites which fail because of high groundwater level are often natural wetlands, and therefore a RBTS fits perfectly into the situation. Effluent is treated fully before gradual dispersal to ground via an unlined pond and subsequent plantation of willow spp. which provide a 'sink' to release water gradually and prevent surface flow to neighbouring land. Soil permeability needs to be carefully assessed before 'puddled clay' construction can be specified, since high groundwater is unrelated to percolation characteristics (except in 'perched' water table situations).
When failure of the site is due to high percolation, ie. where effluent flows too quickly downwards and could contaminate drinking water supplies, a reed bed system holds back the effluent for full treatment. Final disposal can be as above, with ponds and wet woodland areas, or a minimal percolation area can be constructed without fear of contaminating groundwater. Such sites are, however, unsuitable for 'puddled clay' construction.
Sites with low percolation, likewise, benefit from a RBTS, although final disposal becomes the over-riding concern . In this case, pond and woodland areas are designed with reference to percolation/permeability rates, and the direction and rate of outflow are controlled so as not to cause a nuisance to neighbouring property.
All new septic tank installations can benefit from inclusion of a RBTS. The life of any percolation area will be greatly improved.
Hotels, Estates,Villages etc. Treatment systems can be designed to handle the effluent from groups of dwellings, using the same criteria regarding ground conditions as for domestic systems. The size of a reed bed is not directly proportional to occupancy (population equivalent, or 'pe'), and so overall size (square metres per person) reduces at higher loadings.
In addition to treating wastewater in difficult ground conditions, reed beds can be very attractive in remote situations where it is unlikely that central (mains) sewage treatment will ever be installed, due to cost. Existing sewage treatment which no longer satisfies more stringent quality standards, or which, simply, is no longer working effectively (eg. septic tanks where a soakpit was built in the past, or where the percolation area is malfunctioning) are also suitable for treatment by RBTS.
In addition, RBTS can be added as tertiary treatment to large-scale 'conventional' sewage works where effluent needs to be of the highest quality.
Commercial/Industrial : Many commercial processes produce waste water which can be viably treated by RBTS. Organic pollutants are the most suitable, and so Reed Beds can be specified for processes such as dairying & cheesemaking ; breweries ; food processors and manufacturers ; butchers & slaughterhouses, although systems have been designed to remove everything from phenols to heavy metals.
Agricultural : Certain agricultural wastes are suitable for treatment by RBTS. Yard run-off and dairy parlour washings are the most suitable, although it can be viable to treat stronger pollutants (slurry, silage effluent etc.) after breakdown in lagoons. Since certain intensive farming activities now require an EPA license before the granting of planning permission, reed bed systems may become even more viable in the future, although traditional farming practises (deep litter, composting etc.) will prove the best option in the long run.
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