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Environ Pollut. 2006 Oct;143(3):499-512. Epub 2006 Feb 8.

Long-term efficiency and stability of wetlands for treating wastewater of a lead/zinc mine and the concurrent ecosystem development.

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School of Life Sciences, and State Key Laboratory of Biocontrol, Sun Yat-Sen (Zhongshan) University, Guangzhou 510275, PR China.


A constructed wetland system in Guangdong Province, South of China has been used for treating Pb/Zn mine discharge since 1985. The performance in the purification of the mine discharge and the concurrent ecosystem development within the system during the period of 1985-2000 has been studied. The untreated wastewater contained rather high concentrations of cadmium (Cd) (0.05 mg L(-1)), lead (Pb) (11.5 mg L(-1)), and zinc (Zn) (14.5 mg L(-1)), which greatly exceed the upper limits for industrial wastewater discharge in China. The constructed wetland system effectively removed Cd by 94.00%, Pb by 99.04%, Zn by 97.30%, and total suspended solids (TSS) by 98.95% from the mine discharge over a long period (over 16 years) leading to significant improvement in water quality; it was also found that there were no significantly annual or monthly variations in pH values, As, Cd, Hg, Pb, and Zn concentrations in water collected from the outlet of the wetland. Moreover, diversity and abundance of living organisms, including protozoan, higher plants, terrestrial animals, and birds, increased gradually. The 16-year monitoring results showed a reciprocal relationship, at a certain extent, between restoration of the wetland ecosystem, in other words, the maturity of the wetland, and the long-term efficiency and stability on purifying heavy metal-contaminated wastewater.

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