Heterogeneity of Rapid Sand Filters and Its Effect on Contaminant Transport and Nitrification Performance

Laure Rose Lopato, Zofia Galaj, Sébastien Delpont, Philip John Binning, Erik Arvin

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Laboratory and full-scale experiments were conducted to investigate the development and effect of heterogeneity caused by filter media nonuniformity, biofilm, particles, precipitates, and gas bubbles in rapid sand filters used for drinking-water treatment. Salt tracer experiments were conducted in laboratory columns and in a waterworks, where a new tracer method for rapid sand filters was developed. Pore-water velocities and dispersivities were estimated by fitting an analytical solution to the measured breakthrough curves. Results of the column experiments showed an increase in average longitudinal dispersivity of more than 33% in the 116 h after the start of filtration with a constant pore-water velocity and a zero-order nitrification rate of 9 mgN=L=h. The full-scale experiments showed that the rapid sand filter was heterogeneous with pore-water velocities ranging from 2.2 to 3:3 m=h for the same inlet flow. A first-order nitrification reaction with spatially variable pore-water velocity could be interpreted as a zero-order reaction with a constant pore-water velocity. A model demonstrated that filter heterogeneity could result in higher filter outlet ammonium concentrations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Environmental Engineering
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)248-257
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Filter
  • Pollutants
  • Nitrification
  • Sand
  • Salt tracer
  • Clogging
  • Salt
  • Heterogeneity
  • Porous media


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