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Experimental culture of duckweed (Lemnaceae) for treatment of domestic sewage Whitehead, Alan Joseph


The culture of the floating aquatic plant, duckweed (Lemna minor), as an agent of domestic sewage treatment was studied in a clarification lagoon at Duncan, British Columbia, during the summer of 1986. Duckweed was grown in plastic fabric tanks (3700 L volume, 1.85 m deep, 2.25 m² water surface area) receiving 290 L of sewage per day or 12.8 d hydraulic retention time. Three treatments were tested: cropped duckweed, uncropped duckweed, and no duckweed. Water quality, plant growth and tissue composition were monitored on the basis of weekly sampling. Removals of VSS, COD, total-N and total-P were greater in the presence than in the absence of duckweed. Unmeasured imports of N and P masked the effect of plant uptake on reducing nutrient concentrations in the tank effluents. Sustainable duckweed yields were possible at both cropping rates, despite a severe infestation of aphids. Dry matter yields of 2.0 g/m².d and 6.4 g/m².d were obtained at the 15%/week and 50%/week cropping rates, respectively. Duckweed contained 6.1 - 6.4% N and 1.1 - 1.4% P (dry wt.). Plant harvest removed 0.14 g N/m².d and 0.03 g P/m².d at the 15%./week and 0.31 g N/m².d and 0.07 g P/m².d at the 50%/week cropping rates. Cropping increased the fraction of total-N and total-P loading that could be removed via plant uptake. Performance of the experimental treatments is analyzed in the light of concentration data, mass balances, and mass flux estimations. Possible sources of unmeasured N and P imports are discussed, and recommendations for future research are provided. The results suggest that duckweed may hold promise under certain conditions as a means of polishing sewage lagoon effluent.

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