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Desalination 213 (2007) 334342

Comparison of single and dual media filtration in a full-scale drinking water treatment plant
A. Zouboulisa*, G. Traskasa, P. Samarasb
Department of Chemistry, Division of Chemical Technology, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki GR-541 24, Greece Tel. +2310997794; email: b Department of Pollution Control Technologies, Technological Educational Institute of W. Macedonia, Kozani GR-501 00, Greece
Received 11 December 2006; revised accepted 12 February 2006

Abstract In this paper, the operation of mono and dual media filter beds was examined in a large-scale drinking water treatment plant, located in Thessaloniki (N. Greece). The efficiency of filtration process was improved, regarding the removal of undesirable constituents, which mainly include organic matter and suspended solids (turbidity). A comparison was attempted between a sand filter bed (of 1 m depth) and a dual media filter bed, consisting of sand (60 cm-bottom) and anthracite (40 cm-top) layers. Two alternative treatment schemes were examined: the conventional coagulationflocculation/sedimentation, followed by gravity filtration and the direct filtration (i.e. coagulationflocculation and filtration, but without sedimentation). All these experiments were conducted at fullscale filter beds, presenting an effective surface area of 40 m2 and with a volume loading rate over 375 m3 h1 (i.e. large-scale experiments); therefore, the respective velocity was around 10 m h1. The performance of filter beds was assessed in terms of removal capacity, regarding mainly the turbidity, as well as the head-loss build-up. It was found that the dual media filter bed produced water of the same (high) quality as the single bed, but with the advantage of operating at greater filtration cycles (around 3 times higher), which resulted to a 10% higher water production. Keywords: Dual media filter bed; Alum; Direct filtration; Residual aluminium

1. Introduction Drinking water treatment plant processes include mainly the stages of coagulationflocculation, sedimentation, and gravity filtration
*Corresponding author.

through granular media. The aim of these methods is the aggregation of suspended solids and colloids in order to form settleable flocs, which can be removed more easily in the sedimentation basins. Gravity filtration through specifically used granular media, such as sand or active

Presented at the International Conference on New Water Culture of South East European Countries-AQUA 2005, 2123 October 2005, Athens, Greece.
0011-9164/06/$ See front matter 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.desal.0000.00.000

A. Zouboulis et al. / Desalination 213 (2007) 334342


carbon, are commonly used as final polishing processes for the production of drinking water, whereas the application of other additional treatment processes, such as ozonation and chlorination, can further contribute to the removal of organic matter and the disinfection of produced drinking water. Alternative treatment modes, such as dual media filtration and direct filtration process (i.e. without intermediate sedimentation), were examined in the drinking water treatment plant of Thessaloniki (N. Greece) and compared with the more conventionally applied processes, i.e. with the single (sand) filtration bed and with the sedimentation step, respectively. Initially, the operation of filtration process through single and double layer filter beds was examined during the conventional drinking water treatment (i.e. coagulationflocculation/sedimentation, followed by bed filtration). Subsequently, the direct filtration process, which does not include the intermediate settling step, was applied as an alternative treatment scheme, instead of the conventional drinking water treatment. Direct filtration is considered as suitable process for the treatment of surface waters with low turbidity, as well as for multi-medium filter beds, such as anthracite-sand filter, because the main requirements of this application are that (a) the influent should be of low initial turbidity, and (b) it is necessary to have a larger grain diameter in the filter (as in the case of anthracite), in order to decrease the respective head loss [1]. The substitution of conventional treatment scheme by direct filtration may increase significantly the cost savings (up to 35%), because of the elimination of conventional flocculation and sedimentation processes [2]. The filtration process was conducted using large-scale filter beds with single (sand) and double (sand-anthracite) filtration media, in order to compare the operation of dual filter bed with the

single layer one. According to the literature, it was expected that the dual-media filter bed would operate more effectively, because they can function as a progressive sieve, which can trap the larger solids within the coarser (top) anthracite layer, whereas the smaller particles would be trapped deeper within the (bottom) sand layer [3]. This function maximizes considerably the solids holding capacity of dual-bed filters in comparison with the single-filter bed, hence increasing the time of filtration cycle and reducing substantially the necessary time for backwashing. The evaluation of efficiency for the aforementioned alternative treatment schemes was accomplished mainly by taking into account the removal of turbidity, as various researchers consider that turbidity constitutes a primary indicator of water quality [4,5]. Additionally, other operational conditions, such as coagulant dosages, filter runs, backwashing times, as well as sulphuric acid demands (used for pH adjustment) were also considered in order to estimate the overall efficacy of applied technologies. Finally, treatment plant size, energy cost, as well as time saving were the aim of this study. 2. Experimental part 2.1. Plant description The main processes of drinking water treatment plant of Thessaloniki are represented schematically in the flow diagram of Fig. 1. It can be seen clearly that the overall treatment process includes the following steps: (i) pre-ozonation, (ii) adjustment of pH from the initial value of 8.08.2 to 6.97.2, (iii) coagulant addition (at concentrations 1.72.5 mg Al L1), (iv) polyelectrolyte addition (0.0650.11 mg L1) in the flocculator basin, (v) sedimentation, (vi) filtration through sand and active carbon filters and finally, (vii) chlorination for the disinfection of water.


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Fig. 1. Flowchart of main treatment processes in the drinking water plant of Thessaloniki.

2.2. Experimental set up As it was aforementioned, filtration through dual media filter beds of sand and anthracite layers, as well as direct filtration scheme were studied in the drinking water treatment plant of Thessaloniki. For this investigation, large-scale experiments were conducted in the two pilot filter beds of Thessaloniki water treatment plant and the efficiency of their operation was compared with the rest (operating) single-medium filters, which were used during the conventional treatment scheme. The two pilot filter beds were designed to have the half surface area in comparison with the rest filters, i.e. 40 m2 instead of 80 m2. The total depth of all the filter beds, including mono- and dual-media beds, was about 100 cm. The inlet flow rate of pilot filters was

the half in comparison with the other filters (i.e. about 375 m3 h1); therefore, they were capable to achieve the same constant filtration rate (about 9.4 m h1) for comparison reasons. The alternatively examined direct filtration did not include the intermediate step of sedimentation and consisted of the sequence of the other processes, such as pre-ozonation, pH adjustment and coagulant and polyelectrolyte addition, followed finally by filtration. The mixing of chemicals and the coagulation process occurred in an 80 m pipe (of 20 cm diameter), which was used for the by-pass of flocculator sedimentation tank; this process may be also termed as pipe or in-line flocculation, thus avoiding the requirement of a separate mixing tank. The respective detention (or retention)

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time in this pipe was estimated as 96 s, which is quite similar with the residence time of coagulation stage during the conventional treatment scheme (see Fig. 1). The filtration medium of the examined filter beds was a river sand layer with an effective size (D10) of 0.64 mm and a uniformity coefficient (D60/D10) in the range of 1.751.79. Grain size distribution tests of coarser anthracite layer showed an effective size D10 of 1.01.1 mm. According to the literature an effective size in the range of 24 mm and a uniformity coefficient in the range of 1.31.8 are usually recommended for depth (12 m) sand filters [6]. The used coagulant was aluminum sulfate (abbreviated as alum); it was supplied by the Greek Chemical Company Phosphates Fertilizers Industry S.A. A high molecular weight anionic polyelectrolyte (Magnafloc LT25 supplied by CIBA) was used as flocculating agent. 3. Analytical methods The efficiency of examined water treatment processes and the quality of raw and treated water were examined and controlled by the use of on-line meters, as well as with regular laboratory tests. The on-line measurements comprise of pH, conductivity, turbidity and temperature determinations. These on-line values were monitored, recorded and controlled electronically, using the respective S.C.A.D.A. (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) application. The standard laboratory measurements include also the determinations of pH, conductivity and turbidity, in order to check the appropriate operation of on-line meters, as well as the determinations of residual aluminum concentrations. Laboratory measurements of turbidity were carried out with a HACH RATIO/XR Turbidimeter. Residual aluminium concentration (total Al concentration at the outlet of filter beds, i.e. dissolved and particulate) was measured using the Eriochrome Cyanine R (Riedel-de-Haan,

Sealze, Germany) photometric standard method [7]. In addition a Metrohm Herisau pH-Meter and a portable conductivity meter of HANNA Instruments were used. 4. Results and discussion 4.1. Comparison of single and dual media filter bed during the conventional drinking water treatment scheme The operation of dual-media filter bed during the conventional water treatment process (i.e. coagulation/flocculationsedimentationfiltration) lasted for around 3 months, in order to obtain adequate experimental results. The daily average online, as well as the laboratory measurements of turbidity in the inlet and outlet of filter beds are presented in Fig. 2. As it can be seen, during the first weeks of operation of the newly installed dual filter bed, the produced filtered water presented slightly increased turbidity values, in comparison with the single bed. In practice, it is known that new filter beds need a certain (small) period of preliminary operation time, in order to operate appropriately. During

100 Inlet of filter beds Outlet of dual filter bed Outlet of single filter bed Laboratory values of inlet of filter beds Laboratory values of outlet of single filter bed Laboratory values of outlet of dual filter bed

10 Turbidity/NTU



Fig. 2. Daily average online and laboratory turbidity values of water in the inlet and outlet of both filter beds (containing mono and dual filtration media).

13 /1 19 1/20 /1 04 25 1/20 /1 04 1 1/ /20 12 04 7/ /200 12 4 13 /20 /1 04 19 2/20 /1 04 25 2/20 /1 04 31 2/20 /1 04 2 6/ /200 1/ 4 12 200 /1 5 18 /200 /1 5 24 /200 /1 5 30 /200 /1 5 / 5/ 200 2/ 5 11 200 /2 5 17 /200 /2 5 23 /200 /2 5 / 1/ 200 3/ 5 2 7/ 005 3/ 20 05


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Table 1 Average values and standard deviation of online and laboratory measurements, regarding the main parameters for the operation of filter beds Online and laboratory measurements Online value of pH at the inlet of filter beds Laboratory value of pH at the inlet of filter beds Online measurements of turbidity at the inlet of the filter beds, NTU Lab measurements of turbidity at the inlet of the filter beds, NTU Online measurements of turbidity at the outlet of dual-bed filter, NTU Lab measurements of turbidity at the outlet of dual-bed filter, NTU Online measurements of turbidity at the outlet of single-bed-filter, NTU Lab measurements of turbidity at the outlet of single-bed filter, NTU Residual aluminium concentrations at the inlet of filters, g L1 Residual aluminium concentrations at the outlet of single filter, g L1 Residual aluminium concentrations at the outlet of dual-filter, g L1 Mean value 7.07 7.10 1.11 1.22 0.08 0.07 0.05 0.07 482 28 25 Standard deviation 0.16 0.10 0.32 0.30 0.05 0.03 0.03 0.02 160 9 10

this period, the finer fraction of filtration medium (sand) is gradually removed by the backwashing process, and as a result the grain size is shifted towards the recommended more effective (higher) values. Therefore, after the preliminary operation time of about 2 months, as it can be observed from the obtained results the two filter beds (containing mono- and dual filtration media) produce water with the same constant (high) quality, i.e. with final turbidity below 0.1 NTU. It is worth noting that the recommended by the legislation turbidity limit is 1 NTU. The average values of various physicochemical parameters (pH, turbidity, residual aluminium concentrations) are presented in Table 1. It must be noted that the turbidity, as well as the residual aluminium concentrations of filtered water are much lower (i.e. 0.08 NTU and 25 g Al L1), than the maximum permissible legislative limits (according to 98/83/EC Dir.) of 1 NTU and 200 g Al L1, respectively, as applied for the treatment of drinking water. All laboratory measurements of residual aluminium concentrations in the inlet and outlet of filter beds are presented in Fig. 3. It can be seen clearly that the lowermost residual aluminium concentrations (most times under 30 g Al L1) at the outlet of


Residual Al concentration/mg L

200 100

Legislative limit (98/83/EC Dir.) Inlet of the filter beds Outlet of the single filter bed Outlet of the dual filter bed


Fig. 3. Laboratory measurements of residual aluminium concentration at the inlet of filter beds, as well as in the filtered water from the single and dual filter beds.

filter beds. A limited number of peaks above 40 g Al L1 are due to the time of sampling, i.e. immediately after the backwashing of filter beds. During this period of time, which lasts for about 10 min, the turbidity of filtered water is slightly increased (about 0.150.25 NTU). It is known from the literature [8] that the residual aluminium concentration is also increasing with elevated turbidity values.

21 1/20 /1 0 27 1/20 4 /1 04 1 3/ /20 12 04 9/ /200 12 4 15 /20 /1 04 21 2/20 /1 0 27 2/20 4 /1 04 2 2/ /200 1/ 4 2 8/ 005 1/ 14 200 /1 5 20 /200 /1 5 26 /200 /1 5 / 1/ 200 2/ 5 2 7/ 005 2/ 13 200 /2 5 19 /200 /2 5 25 /200 /2 5 /2 00 5



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Dual filter bed Single filter bed






The larger filter runs of dual-bed filter constitute the most significant advantage in comparison with the single bed operation. A conservative computation showed that the water production of dual bed could be about 10% higher in comparison with the single bed. Furthermore, energy cost savings can be also obtained, because of the reduced usage of pumps during the backwashing of dual filter bed. 4.2. Comparison of single and dual media filter bed during direct filtration The aim of these experiments was to investigate the direct filtration process through the single and dual filter bed operation. The rapid clogging of beds during direct filtration is known from the literature [1,6]. However, it was expected that using a dual filter bed, the direct filtration process would proceed more effectively. Direct filtration experiments were conducted in the two pilot filter beds, i.e. in sand filter bed and sand-anthracite bed. During this phase, the effect of alum dosage was studied, as well as the influence of pH. The addition of small dosages of alum coagulant (corresponding to 0.1 or 0.3 mg Al L1) resulted to acceptable duration of filtration cycles during the single bed operation, although the filtered water presented rather higher turbidity (about 0.51.0 NTU). The addition of higher dosages of alum (corresponding to 0.40.5 mg Al L1), as well as of 0.03 mg L1 of polyelectrolyte, resulted to decreased turbidity of filtrate (around 0.10.3 NTU, Fig. 5), although in this case the filtration cycle was reduced significantly, i.e. down to 4.56 h. The dual filter bed (instead of the single one) was found to increase the efficiency of direct filtration, regarding the filtration cycles. Although the use of dual filtration media increased considerably the filtration cycles (1015 h), the filtered water showed also rather increased (but acceptable) turbidity values (0.20.3 NTU).



Fig. 4. Pressure drop development during the operation of both examined filter beds (single and dual filtration media).

Fig. 4 presents a typical diagram of the pressure drop during the comparable operation of both examined filter beds. As it can be observed the head-loss build-up revealed that the filtration cycles of dual-media filter bed were estimated to last about 34 times more, than the respective operation time of the single bed filter. Particularly, it was found that the average effective operation of filtration cycle for the double filter bed was about 74 h, whereas the average filtration cycle of the single filter bed was only 18 h. It is worth noting that the appropriate operation of sand filters was ensured by the establishment of three quality criteria: head loss, operation time and effluent turbidity. The maximum duration of one filter normal cycle was set to about 4 days, in order to avoid problems due to the build-up of a biological layer on the sand surface, while the effluent turbidity limit was set according to existing guidelines for drinking water. Whenever one of these three criteria was covered, then the filter normal operation was turned to the backwash process. As a result, although head loss build-up was low in the dual bed operation, however it was turned to the backwash stage due to the long operation time.

19 /02 / 19 2005 /02 00 / 19 2005 :00 /02 /20 09:00 20 /02 05 18 / 20 2005 :00 /02 /20 03:00 20 /02 05 12 / 21 2005 :00 /02 21 / 21 2005 :00 /02 06 / 22 2005 :00 /02 /20 15:00 22 /02 05 00 / 22 2005 :00 /02 09 / 23 2005 :00 /02 /20 18:00 23 /02 05 03 / 23 2005 :00 /02 12 / 24 2005 :00 /02 /20 21:00 24 /02 05 06 / 25 2005 :00 /02 15 / 25 2005 :00 /02 /20 00:00 25 /02 05 09 /20 : 05 00 18 :00

1.0 0.9 0.8 0.7 Turbidity/NTU 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.0

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1.0 0.9 0.8 0.7 Dual bed direct filtration 1 Conditions: alum 0.30.4 mg Al L , 1 polyelectrolyte 0.030.05 mg L , pH = 7.3

Sinlge bed direct filtration 1 Conditions: alum 0.4 mg Al L , 1 polyelectrolyte 0.03 mg L , pH = 7



0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.0

27/ 4/2 005 27/ 00 4/2 005 :00 27/ 07 4/2 005 :12 27/ 14: 4/2 24 0 05 28/ 21 4/2 005 :36 28/ 04 4/2 005 :48 28/ 12 4/2 005 :00 29/ 19: 4/2 005 12 29/ 02 4/2 005 :24 29/ 09: 4/2 005 36 29/ 16 4/2 005 :48 30/ 24: 4/2 00 0 05 30/ 07 4/2 005 :12 30/ 14 4/2 005 :24 1/5 21: /20 36 05 1/5 04: /20 48 05 1/5 12: /20 00 05 2/5 19: /20 12 05 2/5 02: /20 24 05 2/5 09: /20 36 05 16: 48

Fig. 5. Online turbidity values of filtered water through the single filter bed during direct filtration process.

Fig. 6. Online turbidity values of filtered water after the dual filter bed operation.

Generally, direct filtration scheme was proved to be a process, which can be controlled with difficulty. It is expected that various factors, such as variations in the temperature of treated water and the initial turbidity of raw water, can highly affect the final quality of processed water. Additionally, direct filtration experiments were conducted in a period of seasonal increased turbidity (68.5 NTU), as well as of algal content. Under these conditions the rapid clogging of filter beds during direct filtration seems to be unavoidable. Parallel studies, regarding the presence of phytoplankton in the water of Polyphytos reservoir, which was used for the supply of Thessalonikis water treatment plant, revealed a large amount of algal organisms [9]. The analysis of water samples collected from this reservoir showed about 2.99 106 cells L1 of phytoplankton, consisted of diatoms (66.4%), cryptophytes (28.9%), chlorophytes (4.1%), cyanobacteria (0.5%) and dinophytes (0.03%). The presence of these organisms was attributed to the discharge of untreated wastewater in the receiver from the neighboring settlements, as well as to the draining of waters from agricultural areas. It has been also previously reported

that algae present serious problems to water treatment plants, because they do not settle sufficiently and especially, in direct filtration plants algae can rapidly clog the filters [10]. Nevertheless, in all the cases of examined alum dosages, the legislative limit of 1 NTU was never exceeded. Small variations of pH (i.e. from 7 to 7.3) showed no significant effect, regarding the filtration cycles and the removal of turbidity. Fig. 6 shows the turbidity measurements at the outlet of dual filter bed, which were maintained below the upper permissible limit for the drinking water. Though, at higher pH values (7.58) the residual aluminium concentrations were found to increase, as it was also expected from the respective literature [8,11], over the upper permissible limit of 200 g Al L1 for drinking water. It can be supported that pH values over 7.3 cannot be used safely, because in connection with a slight increase of filtered water turbidity, it may result to higher residual aluminium concentration. This observation can be seen in Fig. 7, where certain specific samples (e.g. of 16/5/2005) presented high residual aluminium values, located near or over the permissible limit. Lower pH

12/ 5/ 12/ 2005 0 5/ 0 12/ 2005 0 :00 5/ 7 12/ 2005 1 :12 5/ 4 13/ 2005 2 :24 5/ 1 13/ 2005 0 :36 5/ 4 13/ 2005 1 :48 5/ 2 14/ 2005 1 :00 5/ 9 14/ 2005 0 :12 5/ 2 14/ 2005 0 :24 5/ 9 14/ 2005 1 :36 5/ 6 15/ 2005 2 :48 5/ 4 15/ 2005 0 :00 5/ 7 15/ 2005 1 :12 5/ 4 16/ 2005 2 :24 5/ 1 16/ 2005 0 :36 5/ 4 16/ 2005 1 :48 5/ 2 17/ 2005 1 :00 5/ 9 17/ 2005 0 :12 5/ 2 17/ 2005 0 :24 5/ 9 17/ 2005 1 :36 5/ 6 18/ 2005 2 :48 5/ 4 18/ 2005 0 :00 5/ 7 18/ 2005 1 :12 5/2 005 4:24 21: 36

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600 500 400 300 200 100 0
0 0 0 0 0 0 :0 :0 :0 :3 :0 :0 12 14 10 10 11 15 5 5 5 5 05 05 5 14 :3 0


Inlet of dual filter bed Outlet of dual filter bed pH = 7.06 pH = 7.33

Fig. 7. Laboratory measurements of residual aluminium concentrations and their dependence from the respective pH values, during the direct filtration mode, applying the dual filter bed.

values (6.97.2) minimize residual aluminium concentration, but it must also be concerned that pH adjustment at 7 demands substantial dosages of sulphuric acid, which can increase considerably the cost of treatment process. 5. Conclusions In this paper the operation of a dual filter bed with anthracite and sand media was compared with a single layer filter bed (with sand). The operation of both filter beds was examined during two filtration schemes: (i) conventional water treatment, which consists of filtration after the application of coagulation/flocculation and sedimentation, and (ii) direct filtration, which excludes the intermediate stage of sedimentation process. The conventional treatment results confirmed that the quality of filtered water was similar for the two examined filter beds, regarding mainly the turbidity and the residual aluminum concentration. Furthermore, the filtration cycles of dual filter bed can last about 34 times more, than the single bed. This

fact results in about 10% higher water production of the dual bed, which can lead to an overall increased production of water in the treatment plant. Generally, the substitution of single beds with the dual ones can offer greater water productivity, as well as easier programming of the backwashing stage. Experimental data showed that direct filtration is a process, which demands excessive monitoring, because even small variations in the quality of raw water (e.g. turbidity, algal content, temperature) may cause serious operational problems, as rapid clogging of the beds, or decreased filtrate quality. However, although direct filtration was studied in a season of increased turbidity and algal content of raw water, the respective legislative limits were exceeded rarely; for example when small or high alum dosages were applied. It can be supported that direct filtration may be more successful if it would be applied, when raw water presents lower initial turbidity (i.e. 34 NTU), as well as low algal content. Acknowledgements Thanks are due to the Specific Service of Public Works (EYE), responsible for the design, build and supervision of operation of Thessaloniki Water Treatment Plant, and specifically to Ms. M. Koutlemani, for her help in many ways. Also, to the Konstandinidis S.A. technical company (constructor and operator of plant) scientific personnel and to the chemical engineer A. Tsogiannis. References
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Residual Al concentration/g L1




00 /2 /5 18 18



















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