Rapid Sand Filtration

Rapid filtration is performed either in open gravitational flow filters or in closed pressure filters. Rapid pressure filters have the advantage of being able to be inserted in the pumping system, thus allowing use of a higher effective loading. Note that pressure filters are not subject to development of negative pressure in a lower layer of the filter. These filters generally support higher speeds, as the available pressure allows a more rapid flow through the porous medium made up by the filter sand. Pressure filtration is generally less efficient than the rapid open type with free-flow filtration. Pressure filters have the following disadvantages. The injection of reagents is complicated, and it is more complicated to check the efficiency of backwashing. Work on the filter mass is difficult considering the assembly and disassembly required. Also, the risk of breakthrough by suction increases. Another disadvantages is that pressure filterts need a longer filtration cycle, due to a high loss of head available to overcome clogging of the filter bed.

Another option is to use open filters, which are generally constructed in concrete. They are normally rectangular in configuration. The filter mass is posed on a filter bottom, provided with its own drainage system, including bores that are needed for the flow of filtered water as well as for countercurrent washing with water or air.

There are several types of washing bottoms. One type consists of porous plates which directly support the filter sand, generally without a layer of support gravel. Even if the system has the advantage of being of simple construction, it nevertheless suffers from incrustation. This is the case for softened water or water containing manganese. Porous filters bottoms are also subject to erosion or disintegration upon the filtration of aggressive water.

The filter bottom is often comprised of pipes provided with perforations that are turned toward the underpart of the filter bottom and embedded in gravel. The lower layers are made up of gravel of approximate diameter 35 - 40 mm, decreasing up to 3 mm. The filter sand layer, located above this gravel layer, serves as a support and equalization zone. Several systems of filter bottoms comprise perforated self-supporting bottoms or false bottoms laid on a supporting basement layer. The former constitutes a series of glazed tiles, which includes bores above which are a series of gravels in successive layers.

All these systems are surpassed to some extent by filter bottoms in concrete provided with strainers. The choice of strainers should in part be based on the dimensions of the slits that make it possible to stop the filter sand, which is selected as a function of the filtration goal. Obstruction or clogging occurs only rarely and strainers are sometimes used.

Strainers may be of the type with an end that continues under the filter bottom. These do promote the formation of an air space for backwashing with air. If this air space is not formed, it can be replaced by a system of pipes that provide for an equal distribution of the washing fluids.

Pressure filters are worth noting. These are usually set up in the form of steel cylinders positioned vertically. Another variation consists of using horizontal filtration groups. This has the drawback that the surface loading is variable in the different layers of the filter bed; moreover, it increases with greater penetration in the filter bed (the infiltration velocity is lowest at the level of the horizontal diameter of the cylinder). The filter bottom usually consists of a number of screens or mesh sieves that decrease in size from top to bottom or, as an alternative, perforated plates supporting gravel similar to that used in the filter bottoms of an open filter system.

Filter mass washing can influence the quality of water being filtered. Changes may be consequent to fermentation, agglomeration, or formation of preferential channels liable to occur if backwashing is inadequate.

Backwashing requires locating a source that will supply the necessary flow and pressure of wash water. This water can be provided either by a reservoir at a higher location or by a pumping station that pumps treated water. Sometimes an automated system is employed with washing by priming of a partial siphon pumping out the treated water stored in the filter itself. An example is shown in Figure 7. The wash water must have sufficient pressure to assure the necessary flow. Washing of the filter sands is accomplished followed by washing with water and in most cases including a short intermediate phase of simultaneous washing with air and water. Due to greater homogenization of the filter layer and more efficient washing, the formation of fermentation areas and agglomerates in the filter mass of treatment plants for surface water (mud balls) is diminished. The formation of a superficial crust on the filter sand is avoided by washing with air. After washing with air, water flow is gradually superimposed on the air flow. This operational phase ends at the same time that the wash air is terminated, to avoid the filter mass being blown away. The wash water contains materials that eventually require treatment in a sludge treatment plant. Their concentration varies as a function of the washing cycle. Accounting for the superficial load in filtration, velocity of the wash water, and length of the filtration cycle, it may be assumed that the water used for washing will not attain 5 % of the total production.

Figure 7. Automatic backwashing filter with a partial siphon system: 1-filtered water (reserve); 2-partial siphoning; 3-initiation; 4-restitution.

For new installations the first washing cycles result in the removal of fine sand as well as all the other materials usually undesirable in the filter mass, such as

Figure 7. Automatic backwashing filter with a partial siphon system: 1-filtered water (reserve); 2-partial siphoning; 3-initiation; 4-restitution.

particles of bitumen on the inner surface of the water inlet or other residuals from the crushing or straining devices of the filter media. Consequently, it is normal that at the beginning of operation of a filter sand installation, dark colored deposits appear at the surface of the filter mass. In the long term they have no consequence and disappear after a few filtration and wash cycles. If, after several weeks of filtration, these phenomena have not disappeared, it will be necessary to examine the filter sand. The elimination of fine sand must stop after 1 or 2 months of activity. If this sand continues to be carried away after the first several dozen washings it is necessary to reexamine the hydraulic criteria of the washing conditions, the granulometry of the filter mass, and the filter's resistance to shear and abrasion.

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