Soil amendment using poplar woodchips to enhance the treatment of wastewater-originated nutrients

Raffaella Meffe*, Angel de Miguel Garcia, Virtudes Martínez Hernández, Javier Lillo, Irene de Bustamante

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Vegetation filters, a nature based wastewater regeneration technology, have been reported as a feasible solution for small municipalities and scattered populations with limited access to sewage networks. However even when such a treatment is properly planned, the leaching of contaminants through the unsaturated zone may occur. The amendment of soil with a readily-labile source of carbon is supposed to ameliorate the removal of contaminants by stimulating microbial activity and enhancing sorption processes. In this study, lab-scale leaching column experiments were carried out to explore if the addition of woodchips to the soil could be a feasible strategy to be integrated in a vegetation filter. Two different types of arrangement of soil and woodchips layers were tested. The soil was collected from an operating vegetation filter treating wastewater of an office building characterised by a high nutrient load. Daily pulse of synthetic wastewater were applied into the columns and effluent samples were collected and analyzed for major ions, total nitrogen (NT), total phosphorous (PT) and chemical oxygen demand (COD). By the end of the experiment, NT, NO3-N and PT soil contents were also measured. Results indicate that amendments with woodchips enhance the elimination of wastewater-originated contaminants. NT removal in the columns with woodchips reaches a value of 99.4%. The main processes responsible for this elimination are NH4-N sorption and nitrification/denitrification. This latter fostered by the reduced redox conditions due to the enhanced microbial activity. High removal of PT (99%) is achieved independently of the woodchips presence due to retention and/or precipitation phenomena. The COD removal efficiency is not affected by the presence of the woodchips. The leaching of organic carbon occurs only during the experimental start-up period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-525
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Column experiment
  • Nutrients
  • Soil amendments
  • Vegetation filter
  • Wastewater
  • Woodchips


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