Floating wetlands for urban stormwater treatment


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Virginia Tech


A floating treatment wetland (FTW) is an ecological approach which seeks to reduce point and nonpoint source pollution by installing substrate rooted plants grown on floating mats in open waters. While relatively novel, FTW use is increasing. A review of literature identified several research gaps, including: (1) assessments of the treatment performance of FTWs; (2) evaluations of FTWs in the U.S., particularly within wet ponds that receive urban runoff; and (3) plant temporal nutrient distribution, plant growth rate, and the long-term persistence of the FTWs in temperate regions with periodic ice encasement.

An assessment model, i-FTW model, was developed, and its parameter s fitted based on data from 14 published FTW studies in the first research topic. The estimated median FTW apparent uptake velocity with 95% confidence interval were 0.048 (0.018 - 0.059) and 0.027 (0.016 - 0.040) m/day for total phosphorus (TP) and total nitrogen (TN), respectively. The i-FTW model provided a more accurate prediction in nutrient removal than two common performance metrics: removal rate (mg/m2/day) and removal efficiency (%). In the second research topic, the results of a mesocosm experiment indicated that FTWs with 61% coverage, planted with pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata L.) or softstem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani), significantly improved TP and TN removal efficiency of the control treatment by 8.2% and 18.2%, respectively. The pickerelweed exhibited significantly higher phosphorus and nitrogen removal than the softstem bulrush when water temperatures were greater than 25 deg C. Field observations in the third research topic found that pickerelweed demonstrated higher phosphorus removal performance (7.58 mg/plant) than softstem bulrush (1.62 mg/plant). Based on the observed seasonal changes in phosphorus distribution, harvest of above-ground vegetation is recommended to be conducted twice a year in June and September. Planted perennial macrophytes successfully adapted to stresses of the low dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations (minimum: 1.2 mg/L), ice encasement, and relatively low nutrient concentrations in the water (median: 0.15 mg/L TP and 1.15 mg/L TN). Systematic observation of wildlife activities indicated eight classes of organisms inhabiting, foraging, breeding, nursing, or resting in the FTWs. Recommendations for FTW design and suggestions for further research are made based upon these findings.



Retention ponds, Nutrient control, Performance assessment, Nutrient harvest, Sustainability.