Environmental Studies of Constructed Wetlands in Akumal, Mexico: New Comparisons of Geotechnical and Botanical Parameters

dc.contributor.authorVarma, Sheela
dc.creatorVarma, Sheela
dc.description.abstractWastewater management is major concern in the Yucatan Peninsula, as sewage pollution has been linked to a rise in human health concerns as well as the decline of the Meso-American coral reef. Subsurface flow constructed wetlands (SFCWs) are engineered ecosystems which involve the use of hydrological, biological and mineralogical processes to reduce wastewater volume and decrease or ideally eliminate the polluting components. Geotechnical properties, plant cover and water quality characteristics of 30 SFCWs in Akumal, Quintana Roo were investigated to determine efficacy of the systems and assess causes for variability of performance. The number of cells, shape and size varied mostly according to the space available for construction. Of the 38 plant species found in these wetlands, Colocasia spp., Cyperus spp. and Acrostichum danaeifolium were common. Concentrations of ammonia and phosphate in effluents varied widely. Around 96 and 92% reductions to 354 and 250% gains were observed in ammonia and phosphate concentrations respectively in the effluent. The coefficient of permeability (k) for aggregate varied from 0.019 cm/s to 0.06 cm/s with an average of 0.041 cm/s. The average porosity was 43.89% and the minimum and maximum porosity was found to be 26% and 52% respectively. The limestone aggregate is angular to subangular with an average uniformity coefficient of 1.52 and average aspect ratio of 2.3 indicating elongated aggregate particles. X-ray diffraction of powdered aggregate from the wetlands indicated four types i.e. (1) calcite (2) calcite and aragonite (3) calcite, quartz and boehmite (4) calcite, quartz, boehmite and aragonite. SEM analysis of samples indicates that the aggregate was highly porous with distinct dissolution and reprecipitation textures. Rare occurrences of Cassiterite (SnO(2)) were found in few samples however no other heavy metal bearing minerals were observed. The bio-films on the aggregate have a distinct chemical composition with high phosphate content. Many of the systems in Akumal seem to be undersized, overloaded and poorly maintained and planted with vegetation that might not be optimal for expected results. Aggregate dissolution might pose a risk of releasing pollutants into the environment. This study identifies several problems with these SFCWs and indicates a more efficient design and maintenance regime is needed.
dc.subjectConstructed wetlands
dc.subjectWetland plants
dc.subjectWater quality
dc.subjectAggregate media
dc.titleEnvironmental Studies of Constructed Wetlands in Akumal, Mexico: New Comparisons of Geotechnical and Botanical Parameters
thesis.degree.disciplineEnvironmental Science and Policy
thesis.degree.grantorGeorge Mason University
thesis.degree.nameMaster of Science in Enviornmental Science and Policy


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