Publication Details (including relevant citation information): Faulkner, Joshua W., Zhang, Wei, Geohring, Larry D., Steenhuis, Tammo S., Journal of Environmental Management, 2011, 92 (3), pp 587-595
Abstract: Silage bunker runoff can be a very polluting substance and is increasingly being treated by vegetative treatment areas (VTAs), but little information exists regarding nutrient removal performance of systems receiving this wastewater. Nutrient transport through the shallow subsurface of three VTAs (i.e. one VTA at Farm WNY and two VTAs at Farm CNY) in glaciated soils containing a restrictive layer (i.e., fragipan) was assessed using a mass balance approach. At Farm WNY, the mass removal of ammonium was 63%, nitrate was 0%, and soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) was 39%. At Farm CNY, the mass removal of ammonium was 79% in the West VTA, but nitrate and SRP increased by 200% and 533%, respectively. Mass removal of ammonium was 67% in the East VTA at Farm CNY; nitrate removal was 86% and SRP removal was 88%. The East VTA received a much higher nutrient loading, which was attributed to a malfunctioning low-flow collection apparatus within the settling basin. Results demonstrate that nutrient reduction mechanisms other than vegetative uptake can be significant within VTAs. Even though increases in nitrate mass were observed, concentrations in 1.65 m deep wells indicated that groundwater impairment from leaching of nitrate was not likely. These results offer one of the first evaluations of VTAs treating silage bunker runoff, and highlight the importance of capturing concentrated low flows in VTA systems.