Slow Sand Filtration Process

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Slow Sand Filtration Process

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Slow Sand Filtration Process

Slow sand filtration is a technology that has been used for potable water filtration for hundreds of years. It is a process well-suited for small, rural communities since it does not require a high degree of operator skill or attention. As its name implies, slow sand filtration is used to filter water at very slow rates. The typical filtration rate of 0.05 to 0.10 gpm/ft2 is at least fifty times slower than for rapid rate filtration. Due to this slow rate of filtration, a large land area is required for the filtration basins. Small communities that have plenty of available land are often good candidates for slow sand filtration.

Slow Sand Filtration Process

Slow sand is a relatively simple filtration process. No chemical addition is required for proper filtration operation. Particle removal is accomplished primarily through biological processes that provide treatment. The biological activity is located primarily in the top surface of the filter known as the “schmutzdecke,” although recent research has indicated that biological processes throughout the depth of the filter bed may also influence particle removal. A “ripening” period from several weeks to several months is necessary for the biological organisms to mature in a new slow sand filter.

Slow sand filters are not backwashed like rapid rate filters, but are instead scraped or harrowed periodically when headloss reaches 3 – 4 feet across the filter bed. Typically slow sand filters must be scraped or harrowed every 1 – 12 months depending on water quality. Some facilities with very high water quality can experience even longer filter runs. During scraping, the top 1/8 – 1/2 inch of sand is removed from the filter bed. Eventually, after years of operation, the sand layer must be replaced to restore the depth of the filter bed. In some cases, filters are harrowed to break up the top layer of material and reduce headloss through the filter. Sand is not removed when filters are harrowed, but the top layer of organic material is broken up and floated off the surface of the filter bed using flow up through and across the filter surface.
After a filter is scraped or harrowed, the filtered water is typically sent to waste for a period of 1 – 7 days to allow the biological population in the filter to reestablish.

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