Study on the Application of Floating Beds of Macrophites (Vetiveria zizanioides and Phragmites australis) in Pilot Scale for the Removal of Heavy Metals from Água Forte Stream (Alentejo-Portugal)
 
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School of Agriculture, Polytechnic Institute of Beja, Beja, Portugal
CORRESPONDING AUTHOR
Teresa Borralho   

School of Agriculture, Polytechnic Institute of Beja, Beja, Portugal
Publication date: 2020-04-01
 
J. Ecol. Eng. 2020; 21(3):153–163
 
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ABSTRACT
The surrounding area of the Roxo stream sub-basin (basin of the Sado River, Portugal) has completely sterile sections, jeopardizing the productivity of the agricultural activities practiced there. This may be due, in addition to other factors, to the inflow of the Água Forte stream, which has characteristics of Acid Mining Drainage (AMD). The objective of this study was to test the efficiency of heavy metal removal from Água Forte stream using macrophyte floating bed technology (Vetiveria zizanioides and Phragmites australis) in a pilot plant, monitoring and evaluating water quality and performance of macrophytes. Two experiments were carried out in 2019 during 6 months (January to June). Both experiments were performed in a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tanks of nominal capacity of 1 m3 each. The tanks were filled with about 0.8 m3 of water coming from Água Forte stream, which was renewed monthly. The floating beds consisted in a high density polyethylene flotation system and an organic plant support mat filled with a plant density of 285 plants.m-2. Heavy metal removal rates obtained from the Vetiveria zizanioides and Phragmites australis floating bed were: Fe = 40%; Zn = 33%; Cu = 23%; Mn = 14% and Fe = 27%; Zn = 19%; Mn = 17%; Cu = 14%; respectively. The order of accumulation of heavy metals in Vetiveria zizanioides and Phragmites australis in plant biomass was Fe> Zn> Cu> Mn and Fe> Zn> Mn> Cu, respectively. The growth of Vetiveria zizanioides and Phragmites australis in leaf biomass was 7.1 ± 0.3 cm / month and 2.5 ± 0.0 cm / month and in root biomass 3.8 ± 0.1 cm / month and 4.1 ± 0.1 cm / month, respectively. The growth of macrophytes showed the ability to survive in AMD-containing waters without severe damage in their external and anatomical morphology, although their growth suffered inhibition. The results suggest that floating bed technology may be an environmentally sustainable alternative, allowing long-term heavy metal removal.