Presence of bacteria and bacteriophages in full-scale trickling filters and an aerated constructed wetland

A. I. Stefanakis, M. Bardiau, D. Trajano, Fay Couceiro, John Williams, Huw Taylor

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Aerated Constructed Wetlands are a state-of-the-art design that provides a different physical and chemical environment (compared to traditional passive wetland designs) for the wastewater treatment processes and, thus, may have different pathogen removal characteristics. In order to establish the fate of bacterial and viral indicators, a field study was carried out at a Sewage Treatment Works (STW) in the UK (serving 20,000 pe). The STW consists of primary and secondary sedimentation tanks and trickling filters (TF) as the biological stage. A large (1,160 m2) pilot aerated Vertical Flow Constructed Wetland (AVFCW) was constructed at the STW as tertiary stage receiving ¼ of the total flow rate, i.e., 1250 m3/day. Effluent quality of the AVFCW complied with national and international standards for environmental discharge and reuse. For the first time, two sets of bacterial (Faecal coliforms, E.coli and intestinal enterococci) and viral indicators (Somatic coliphages, F-RNA specific bacteriophages and human-specific B. fragilis GB124 phages) were simultaneously investigated in an AVFCW and TF. High elimination rates were detected (up to 3.7 and 2.2 log reduction for bacteria indicators and phages, respectively) and strong correlations between the two sets were found. The superior efficiency of the aerated Constructed Wetlands in microbiological contamination removal compared to passive wetland systems was established for the first time, which may have implications for process selection for wastewater reuse. This field study therefore provides new evidence on the fate of bacteriophages and a first indication of their potential use for performance evaluation in TF and aerated Constructed Wetlands. It also demonstrates that the combination of TF with aerated constructed wetlands could be a novel and effective treatment scheme for new STW or for the upgrade of existing STW.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1135-1145
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date29 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Aerated constructed wetlandTrickling filter
  • Trickling filter
  • Bacteriophages
  • Indicator bacteria
  • Wastewater reuse
  • Sewage Treatment Works


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