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J Environ Manage. 2010 Aug;91(8):1794-801. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2010.03.019. Epub 2010 Apr 21.

Design and risk assessment tool for vegetative treatment areas receiving agricultural wastewater: preliminary results.

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  • 1Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, 62 Riley-Robb Hall, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA.


Vegetative treatment areas (VTAs) are commonly being used as an alternative method of agricultural process wastewater treatment. However, it is also apparent that to completely prevent discharge of pollutants to the surrounding environment, settling of particulates and bound constituents from overland flow through VTAs is not sufficient. For effective remediation of dissolved agricultural pollutants, VTAs must infiltrate incoming wastewater. A simple water balance model for predicting VTA soil saturation and surface discharge in landscapes characterized by sloping terrain and a shallow restrictive layer is presented and discussed. The model accounts for the cumulative effect of successive rainfall events and wastewater input on soil moisture status and depth to water table. Nash-Sutcliffe efficiencies ranged from 0.65 to 0.81 for modeled and observed water table elevations after calibration of saturated hydraulic conductivity. Precipitation data from relatively low, average, and high annual rainfall years were used with soil, site, and contributing area data from an example VTA for simulations and comparisons. Model sensitivity to VTA width and contributing area (i.e. barnyard, feedlot, silage bunker, etc.) curve number was also investigated. Results of this analysis indicate that VTAs should be located on steeper slopes with deeper, more-permeable soils, which effectively lowers the shallow water table. In sloping landscapes (>2%), this model provides practitioners an easy-to-use VTA design and/or risk assessment tool that is more hydrological process-based than current methods.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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