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Trickling filters

Dr. Akepati S. Reddy

Associate Professor, Thapar University
Adjunct Scientist, TCIRD
Patiala (PUNJAB) – 147 004
Trickling filters
• Most conventional technology but relatively less used
• Circular or rectangular non-submerged fixed film
• Includes
– Rock or plastic packing as a medium for bio-film
– Wastewater dosing or application system
– Under drain system
– Structure containing packing
– Secondary settling unit
• Clarified or fine screened primary effluent is applied on the
packing and allowed to trickle through
Trickling filters

• The bio-film is alternatively exposed to wastewater and air

• Wastewater made to flows as a thin film over the bio-film
• Treated effluent from TF is passed through a secondary
clarifier and let out as treated secondary effluent
• Portion of the clarified effluent may be recycled to TF for
– Diluting the strength of incoming wastewater
– Maintaining enough wetting of the bio-film during minimal or
no flow conditions

Primary Trickling Secondary Treated

Wastewater clarifier filter clarifier effluent


To sludge
Handling & disposal

Trickling filter
Trickling Filter
In some wire mesh screen is placed over the
Requires less energy and easy to operate
Have more potential for odors and quality of treated
effluent is low –causes are
Inadequate ventilation
Poor clarifier design
Inadequate protection from cold temperatures
Dosing operations
Biofilm development may not be uniform in the trickling
Liquid may not uniformly flow over the entire packing
surface (wetting efficiency)
Low cost material with high specific surface area, high
enough porosity and high durability is ideal
• Rock (rounded river rock, crushed stone or high quality
granite), blast furnace slag, or plastic can be used
Corrugated plastic sheet packing
– High hydraulic capacity, high porosity, and resistance to
plugging (for better air circulation and bio-film sloughing)
– Most used and two types: cross flow and vertical flow
– Packing depth is 4 to 12 m (6 to 6.5 m is typical), hence
require less land area
– Superior to stone packing for higher organic loading rates
Rock packing
– High density limits depth – 0.9 to 2.5 m (1.8 m is typical)
– Size is 75 to 100 mm (95% of the material)
Wastewater dosing/application system
Two types of wastewater dosing/distribution systems:
Rotary distributors & Fixed Nozzle Distribution Systems
Rotary distributors
• Has 2 or more hollow arms mounted on a central pivot
– Arms have nozzles and extend across the TF diameter
– Spacing between nozzles decreases center to perimeter
(ensures uniform distribution of wastewater)
• Dynamic reaction of the discharged wastewater from
nozzles revolves the distribution arm
– Rotational speed varies with flow
– Alternatively electrical motor can also be used
Wastewater dosing/application system
• Clearance between distributor arm and filter packing top is
150 to 225 mm
• Typical head loss in the distributor is 0.6 to 1.5 m
• Rotational speeds of distributors
– In the past these were 0.5 to 2 rpm – but now reduced for
better filter performance
– Change from conventional 1 to 5 min/rev. for rock filters to
dosing every 30-55 min. once improved performance
(reduced bio-film thickness & odour observed)
– Can be decided by
N = (1+R)q / (A.DR)
R, recycle ratio q, influent flow rate
A, no. of distributor arms DR, dosing rate
Wastewater dosing/application system
• Dosing volumes
– Higher dosing volumes are reported to improve wetting
efficiency, agitation, flushing and wash away of fly eggs, and
resulted in thinner bio-film
– Daily intermittent high flushing doses are shown to control
bio-film thickness and solids inventory
Fixed nozzle distribution system
– In case of square or rectangular filters fixed flat spray
nozzles are used
– Used for shallow rock filters
– Flat spray pattern nozzles are used (at periphery half spray
nozzles are used)
– Water pressure is varied systematically in order to spray
wastewater first at maximum distance and then at
decreasing distance
Under-drain system
Meant to catch filtered wastewater and solids and convey to
secondary clarifier
• Should facilitate ventilation, easy inspection and flushing if
– Drains are open at both the ends and open into a
circumferential channel
Floor and drains of the filter should be strong enough to
support packing, slime growth and wastewater
– Rock filters use pre-cast blocks of vitrified clay or fiber glass
grating laid on reinforced concrete sub-floor
– Plastic packing filters use beams over columns
Free draining out of filtered wastewater should be ensured
– 1 in 5 bottom slope is provided towards the outlet
– under-drains are designed for flow velocity >0.6 m/sec. at
average flow
– Beams are provided with channels on their top
Ventilation and air flow
Natural draft is the primary means for providing the
needed air flow
• Often inadequate – forced ventilation by low pressure fans
can be solution – FD or ID fans can be used
• Driving force is temperature difference between ambient
air and wastewater
• During periods of no temperature difference natural draft
may not be there
• Cooler wastewater forces downward air flow through the
filter and warmer wastewater forces upwards air flow
• Upward air flow not desirable - supply of oxygen is lower
where demand is higher and odours can be a problem
Ventilation and air flow
Natural air draft through filter can be determined by
Dair = 353 1 − 1  Z
 Tc Th 
Dair , draft in mm of water column
Z, height of the filter in ….
Tc, cold temperature in K
Th, hot temperature in K
Air flow velocity through the filter is proportional to the natural
air draft
Pressure drop across filter is related to flow velocity by
N pV 2
∆P =
∆P total head loss in kPa (101.325 kPa is equal to 1 atmos)
V is superfecial air flow velocity
Np is filter tower resistance factor
Ventilation and air flow
Np is estimated as
1.36×10 −5 L
N p = 10.33D exp A

D is depth of packing (m)

L/A is liquid loading rate (kg/

Total head loss through the filter (Npt ) is usually taken as 1.3
to 1.5 times to Np
Np value for rock packing of 45 m2/m3 specific surface area is 2.0

For plastic random packing Npt is 1.6 for 100 m2/m3 surface area
For plastic packing with cross flow conditions Npt is 1.3 for 100 m2/m3
specific surface area and 1.6 for 140 m2/m3 packing
Ventilation and air flow
For better air flow
• Drains should not flow beyond half full
• Open area over the top of the under-drains should be >15%
• Each 23m2 filter area should have 1 m2 area of ventilation manholes
or vent stacks
Secondary clarifier
Settling is meant for the removal of suspended flocs and
discharging the clarified sewage –
– Sludge is not recycled – but can be returned to primary
– Part of the clarified effluent may be recycled for reducing
strength or for keeping wet of the bio-film
• Sludge is relatively easily settlable
Settling tanks with side wall depth of 3.6 to 3.7 and overflow
rate 1m/hr for average flow and 2 m/hr for peak flow are
With proper design and operation of a secondary clarifier
clarified effluent has <20 mg/l of TSS
Trickling filters
Classified as
• Low or standard rate filters
– Produce effluent of consistent quality though influent is of
varying strength
– Top 0.6 to 1.2 m of the filter has appreciable bio-film and
lower portion may have nitrifying bacteria
– Odours and filter flies may be the problems
• Intermediate and high rate filters
– Flow is usually continuous
– Recirculation of effluent allows higher organic loadings
– May be a single or two stage process
– High rates filters usually use plastic packing
Trickling filters
• Roughing filters
– Much higher organic loadings (>1.6 kg/ are used
– Hydraulic loading can be upto 190 m3/
– Used to treat wastewater prior to secondary treatment
(require low energy than ASP – 2 to 4 kg BOD per kWh for
TF against 1.2 to 2.4 kg BOD per kWh for ASP)
2-stage filters
• High strength wastewaters prefer 2-stage filter with
intermediate clarifier
• Preferred when nitrification is required
– Nitrification demands low organic loading (<30 mg/l) –
complete nitrification demands <15 mg/l of organic load
• Separate TF, after secondary treatment, can also be used
for nitrification
Biological community of trickling filter
Biological community of trickling filter includes
– Aerobic, anaerobic and facultative bacteria
– Fungi, algae and protozoans
– Worms, insect larva and snails
Bio-film on the medium surface is mainly composed of
aerobic, facultative and anaerobic bacteria
– Lower reaches of the filter can have nitrifying bacteria
– At lower effluent pH, fungi play important role
– Algae may grow in the upper reaches of the filter
Problems caused by biological community
– Protozoa, worms, insect larva and snails feed on biological
films and increase effluent turbidity
– Snails are troublesome in the TFs used for nitrification
– Algae can cause filter clogging and odors problem
– Fungal growth can also clog the filter
Sloughing of bio-films
Bio-film can be up to 10 mm thick – in the top 0.1 to 0.2
mm aerobic degradation occurs
• Organic loading increases thickness of the film
• Aerobic environment and substrate can not penetrate
inner depths of the bio-film
• In case of thick films, due to anaerobic environment and
substrate limiting conditions and consequent endogenous
respiration, bio-film looses its clinging ability
• Under hydraulic loading sloughing off of bio-film occurs
• Mechanisms of sloughing for rock packing is apparently
different from that of plastic packing
– In plastic packing sloughing off is a small scale process and
occurs from hydrodynamic shear
– In rock packing large scale spring sloughing occurs mainly
due to insect larva activity – affects total BOD of the effluent
(can be higher than that of the influent)
Trickling Filter: design
Based on empirical relationships derived from pilot plant
studies and full-scale plant experiences
Following are related with treatment efficiency and used
as design and operating parameters
– Volumetric organic loading
– Unit area loading
– Hydraulic application rates
At <0.5 kg/ BOD loading the treatment efficiency
is >90% and at >3.5 kg/ loading it is <60%
– For effective nitrification BOD loading must be very little
– Can be 0.5 to > 3 g/
– Efficiencies depend on the packing surface area and on the
specific NH4-N loading rate
– Cross flow conditions, higher temperature and better wetting
efficiencies can enhance the nitrification efficiency
Empirical formulae for BOD removal
for rock filter media
Empirical formula for BOD removal for 1st stage TF is
E1 =
1 + 0.4432
E1 is BOD removal efficiency at 20°C
W1 is BOD loading kg/day
V is volume of filter packing (in m3)
F is recirculation factor and defined as
1+ R
( 1+ R
Here R value can be 0 to 2.0
Empirical formulae for BOD removal
for rock filter media
BOD removal efficiency at 20°C in the 2nd stage TF is
E2 =
0.4432 W2
1 − E1 VF
W2 is BOD loading to 2nd stage TF in kg/m3
BOD removal efficiency is temperature dependent and
temperature correction can be made by
ET = E20 (1.035)T − 20
Empirical formulae for plastic packing
Contact time of wastewater with bio-film depends on the
filter depth and the hydraulic application rate
cD Q
τ= q=
qn A
τ Wastewater contact time (in min.)
q, hydraulic loading rate in L/m2.min.
c, constant for the packing used
D, depth of the packing in m (typical is 6.1 -6.7 m)
n, hydraulic constant for packing
taken as 0.67 at 20°C and as 0.5 for a packing of 90 m2/m3
specific surface area
Empirical formulae for plastic packing
Change in BOD concentration with time is
= −kS
− kD
Se − kt qn
= exp = exp
k is taken as 0.69/day at 20°C
Its value is temperature dependent

kT = k 201.035T − 20
Modified Velz equation for the effluent
BOD for the plastic packing

Se =
 K 20θ T − 20 AS D 
( R + 1) exp − R
 q( R + 1) 
R is recycle ratio
θ is temperature correction coefficient (1.035)
So is influent BOD and Se is effluent BOD
As is specific surface area (m2/m3)
q is hydraulic application rate
recommended value is >0.5L/m2.sec.
K is rate constant
Modified Velz equation
K value
Its value is 0.059 to 0.351
for domestic wastewater it is 0.21
it requires adjustment for both packing depth and influent BOD
0.5 0.5
 D1   S1 
K 2 = K1    
 D2   S2 
K1 is K value for D1 = 6.1 m and S1 = 150 mg/l of BOD
For influent BOD of 400 to 500 mg/l oxygen transfer can
become limiting in trickling filters
Loading of soluble bCOD >3.3 kg/ can also limit oxygen
Air flow requirements
Oxygen required per kg of BOD loaded to the TF is
[ ]
R o = 0.8 exp -9Lb + 1.2 exp -0.17Lb PF
R , kg of oxygen needed per kg of BOD loaded

Lb, BOD loading rate kg/ (typical: 0.3-1.0 kg/

PF is the peaking factor
If nitrification is also considered then

R o = 0.8 exp + 1.2 exp
-9L b -0.17L b
+ 4.6 NO x  PF
 BOD
N /BOD, ratio of influent nitrogen oxidized to influent BOD

72 m3 of air at 20°C, at assumed O2 transfer efficiency of 5%,

can supply one kg of O2 to the TF – transfer efficiency is taken
as 2.5% in case of nitrification
– Oxygen content of air 0.279 kg/m3 at 20°C
Air flow requirements
Air flow (in m3/day) required (AR) for a TF is
AR = 72 R 0 QS0
Q, flow rate of influent in m3/day
S0 is influent BOD in kg/m3

For temperature and pressure different form 20°C and one

atmos, air flow rate is
273 + TA 760
AR T = AR 20
293 Pa
If temperature is >20°C air requirement will increase -
solubility of oxygen decreases with increasing temperature
 TA - 20 
AR T = AR T 1 +
 100 
Recommended air flow is 0.3 m3/m2.min.
Used either as a combined system or as a tertiary treatment
Influent BOD and DO within the TF impact nitrification rates
– Maximum rates occur when sBOD is <5mg/l, rates are
inhibited at >10 mg/l and rates are insignificant at >30 mg/l
– For rock media filters for BOD loading of <0.08 kg/m3,
nitrification efficiencies are >90% and for the loading of 0.22
kg/m3 it is 50%
– For >90% nitrification surface loading of <2.4 g/m2 is needed
Linear relationship exists between specific nitrification rate
and BOD/TKN ratio−0and
can be shown by
 BOD 
RN = 0.82 
 TKN 

– Here RN is specific nitrification rate (in g/

Packing design, temperature, oxygen availability and
ammonia loading rate all affect nitrification rates
• DO concentration has very great effect
• Follows zero order reaction (against NH4-N) for most
portion of the packing (for NH4-N in the > 5-7 mg/L range)
• Rates decline from top with depth may be from the
decrease of biofilm growth, from predation (grazing by
snails!) and from changed wetting efficiency
• Rates can be 1 to 3 g/ and may decline by 20-50%
with decrease in temperature from 20 to 10C
For higher nitrification rates
– NH4-N should be >5 mg/L
– hydraulic loading rates should also higher
– Specific surface area of 100 m2/m3 may be appropriate
Periodic floods can minimize the predation problem
For the determination of volume of packing and hydraulic
application rate following empirical equation is used
 N 
rN ( Z ,T ) = rN , Max.  . exp − rZ
 KN + N 
– Here rN is surface nitrification rate for Z depth of TF and T
operating temperature
– N is NH4-N concentration in the bulk liquid
– r is an empirical constant
– KN is N conc. at rN=rN.Max./2 – its expected value is 1.5 mg/l
– rN.Max. is in g.N/ – its value is 1.1 to 2.9 g.N/ -
temperature correction is considered not needed for 10-25C range
– beyond this correction is done by
rN .Max.(T ) = rN .Max.(10 )1.045T −10