Possible use of constructed wetland to remove selenocyanate, arsenic, and boron from electric utility wastewater.

PMID 12867190


Wetland microcosms were used to evaluate the ability of constructed wetlands to remove extremely high concentrations of selenocyanate (SeCN-), arsenic (As), and boron (B) from wastewater generated by a coal gasification plant in Indiana. The wetland microcosms significantly reduced the concentrations of selenium (Se), As, B, and cyanide (CN) in the wastewater by 64%, 47%, 31%, and 30%, respectively. In terms of the mass of each contaminant, 79%, 67%, 57%, and 54% of the Se, As, B, and CN, respectively, loaded into the microcosms were removed from the wastewater. The primary sink for the retention of contaminants within the microcosms was the sediment, which accounted for 63%, 51%, and 36% of the Se, As, and B, respectively. Accumulation in plant tissues accounted for only 2-4%, while 3% of the Se was removed by biological volatilization to the atmosphere. Of the 14 plant species tested, cattail, Thalia, and rabbitfoot grass were highly tolerant of the contaminants and exhibited no growth retardation. Environmental toxicity testing with fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) larvae confirmed that the water treated by the wetland microcosms was less toxic than untreated water. The data from the wetland microcosms support the view that constructed wetlands could be used to successfully reduce the toxicity of aqueous effluent contaminated with extremely high concentrations of SeCN-, As, and B, and that a pilot-scale wetland should therefore be constructed to test this in the field. Cattail, Thalia, and rabbitfoot grass would be suitable plant species to establish in such wetlands.

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