High Hopes for Cattails

by Bill Dawson, Environmental Engr.; Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cunnon, 162 3rd Ave. N., Nashville, TN 37201,


Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1989, Vol. 59, Issue 5, Pg. 48-50


Document Type: Feature article

Abstract: As other areas of wastewater treatment go high tech, man-made wetlands are treating wastewater from small towns and coal mines. Plants are grown in about 1 ft of water. Suspended solids settle to the bottom, creating anaerobic conditions, while aerobic conditions are present around the roots and stalks. This environment allows a unique combination of bacterial life forms to treat the wastewater. The low costs of the systems—$300,000, compared to $3-4 million for traditional mechanical systems—is a big advantage. But as engineers and operators from small towns look into wetland treatment, they are finding a design process in its infancy. There are about 25 man-made wetland treatment systems in the U.S. Most of these wetlands are only 2-3 years old, and while data is promising, it is not definitive.

Subject Headings: Coal mining | Costs | Rural areas | Wastewater management | Water treatment | Wetlands

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