Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Hector R. Fuentes

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Assefa Melesse

Third Advisor's Name

Shonali Laha

Fourth Advisor's Name

Yelena Katsenovich

Fifth Advisor's Name

Omar I. Abdul-Aziz


constructed wetland, subsurface flow, surface flow, SSF, SF, tropics, BOD, TSS, Fecal Coliform, Oil and Grease

Date of Defense



This study is part of a project that was conducted by Florida International University (FIU), which designed, built, and characterized a constructed wetland (CW) wastewater treatment system in El Salvador, Central America. This study focuses on the detailed performance of a field-scale CW in the tropics, consisting of a subsurface flow wetland (SSF) and a surface flow wetland (SF). The SSF had a total area of 151.2 sq. m., filled with gravel and planted with Phragmites, Thalia, and Brachiaria, along three independent cells operating with a flow in parallel and receiving the influent domestic wastewater from a facultative lagoon and preceded the SF. The SF was a shallow open basin containing alternating regions of open water (195 sq. m. total) with submerged aquatic plants (Elodea) and regions of shallower water (605 sq. m. total) filled with emergent wetland vegetation (Typha, Thalia, and Cyperus).

The design, construction, startup and operation phases of the field scale CW in that tropical setting are thus described with detail, including both SSF and SF characterization of influent and effluents. The SSF average hydraulic detention times during the wet and dry season were 2 days ± 0.9 days and 4 days ± 0.4 days, respectively; and the SF average hydraulic detention times during the wet and dry season were 20 days ± 11.1 days and 77 days ± 19.5 days, respectively. Brachiaria/Cyperus presented better results during the wet season with average BOD5 residuals of 36% ± 25%, and Thalia/Thalia during the dry season with average BOD5 residuals of 33% ± 22%. Phragmites/Typha presented better results during both seasons with average TSS residuals of 2% ± 3% (wet season), and 2% ± 2% (dry season). Residuals are also presented for COD, Oil & Grease, Total Fecal Coliform, Total Phosphorus, and Total Nitrogen. In addition, an assessment of the empirical models used in the design of the system is completed, having the EPA methodology as the preferred for BOD5 removal and three methodologies for TSS removal under tropical climate conditions. A comparison of the differences in treatment associated with each one of the selected plants and their combinations is also discussed. In summary, results strongly suggest that the CW system can effectively reduce contaminants in wastewater to levels that are comparable with the objective levels (i.e., secondary treatment levels).



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