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Module

2.1
2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

BioSand Filters Ready for Schools in Haiti

The purpose of constructing the BioSand filter is to enable the user to


enjoy good quality water which should lead to better health. To provide
the filter constructor with an appreciation of the need for good quality
water, it is important to understand the relationship between good health
and good water supply, treatment, sanitation and hygiene. This module is
a brief explanation of these relationships.

This module also gives the design basis for the concrete BioSand filter and
why the filter is built as it is.
Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

2.1 BIOSAND FILTER PURPOSE AND DESIGN........................................................1


WATER TREATMENT..............................................................................................................2
Sedimentation..............................................................................................................2
Filtration......................................................................................................................3
Disinfection..................................................................................................................3
BIOSAND FILTER..................................................................................................................3
THE FILTRATION PROCESS......................................................................................................6
The Pause Period ........................................................................................................6
Oxygen Gradient..........................................................................................................6
The Start of the Run.....................................................................................................8
Halfway Through the Run ...........................................................................................9
The End of the Run....................................................................................................10
ARSENIC REMOVAL.............................................................................................................11
FILTER OPERATION..............................................................................................................11
Flow Rates.................................................................................................................12
Pause Periods............................................................................................................12
Water Depths.............................................................................................................12
Influent Water Quality...............................................................................................13
Filtered water quality................................................................................................13
Maintenance .............................................................................................................13
Time...........................................................................................................................14
Conclusion.................................................................................................................14
THE BIOSAND FILTER ADVANTAGES .....................................................................................16
THE BIOSAND FILTER LIMITATIONS......................................................................................16
COMPARING TECHNOLOGIES.................................................................................................16
Functionality..............................................................................................................17
Capital Cost...............................................................................................................17
Operating Costs.........................................................................................................17
APPENDICES.......................................................................................................................18
Appendix A: BioSand Filter – Specification Sheet....................................................18
Appendix B: BioSand Filter – Summary of all Lab and Field Tests..........................18

Water Treatment
Raw water is treated in 3 main ways: sedimentation, filtration and disinfection.
Sedimentation

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

If the water contains particles of sand, grit and dirt, it can be left in a container for some time
to allow the particles to settle. Bacteria often grow attached to particle surfaces. Removal of
particles by sedimentation will produce a marked reduction in bacterial concentrations.
This reduction is achieved by allowing a container of water to settle for 2 – 12 hours.

Filtration
Filters remove pathogens in several ways. These include straining, where the particles or
larger pathogens such as worms become trapped in the small spaces between the grains;
adsorption, where pathogens become attached to the filter media; and biologic processes,
where pathogens die naturally or the micro organisms which live in the filter consume the
bacteria and pathogens.

Examples of filtration systems: rapid sand filter, ceramic filter, slow sand filters and the
biosand filter.

Disinfection
Disinfection comes about primarily through the destruction of the organism cell walls by
oxidation. This oxidation is normally a result of the addition of chemicals such as chlorine. It
can also be induced by ultraviolet radiation.

Pathogens can hide from disinfecting agents in organic and inorganic residue in the water.
Removal of suspended materials by sedimentation and filtration greatly improve the
performance of chemical disinfection agents.

Examples of disinfection are the addition of chlorine or sodium hypochlorite to water, solar
disinfection (SODIS) or solar pasteurization.

BioSand Filter
The major benefits of slow sand filtration are due to the microbiology of the filter. The
microbiological community must be kept alive for the filter to be effective. In a conventional
slow sand filter, oxygen is supplied to the organisms through dissolved oxygen in the water.
Consequently, they are designed to be operated continuously. Also, because the water moves
through at a slow rate, the filter beds tend to be very large.

The biosand water filter is an invention that modifies the traditional slow sand filter in such a
way that the filters can be built on a smaller scale and can be operated intermittently. These
modifications make the filter suitable for use at the household or small group level.
Household use would simply not be possible with conventional slow sand filtration because
of the size requirements and the mode of operation.

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

A bucket of contaminated water can be poured into the top of the BioSand filter as necessary.
The water simply flows through the filter and is collected in another bucket or container at
the base of the spout. It normally takes a few minutes for the entire bucket to make its way
through the filter. There are no valves or moving parts and the design of the outlet pipe
ensures that a minimum water depth of five centimetres is maintained over the sand when the
filter is not in use.

When water is flowing through the filter, oxygen is supplied to the biologic layer at the top of
the sand by the dissolved oxygen in the water. During pause times, when the water is not
flowing, the oxygen is obtained by diffusion from the air and by slow convective mixing of
the layer of water above the sand. If this layer is kept shallow, enough oxygen is able to pass
through to the micro organisms to keep them alive and thus effective.

The filter is made up of five distinct regions; the influent reservoir, the supernatant, the
schmutzdecke, the biologically active zone, and the sand support and underdrain, as shown
below.

INFLUENT RESERVOIR – Volume


above the filter media which allows
for a full pail of water

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

SUPERNATANT – The standing


water layer present during pause
periods - Oxygen can diffuse into
the water

SCHMUTZDECKE – Layer of
slime, mud and micro-organisms
which develops at the sand surface

BIOLOGICAL ZONE – 5-
10 cm deep – living layer
of micro-organisms

SAND BED – Contains


virtually no living micro-
organisms

GRAVEL – No living
mirco-organisms present

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

The Filtration Process


The Pause Period
(When No Water Is Flowing)

Oxygen in the air diffuses through the


supernatant to the biologic layer.
Since the oxygen demand is constant,
the diffusion is steady state.

Nutrients are
consumed over the Slow convective
entire pause period mixing of the
reducing the supernatant increases
concentration of oxygen available to
suspended the biologic layer.
contaminants in
the supernatant.

Organisms die off due to


Micro organisms in the lack of substrate food and
biologic layer use diffused oxygen or they move
oxygen and consume toward the hospitable
pathogens. This results in environment at the sand
growth of the organisms. surface.
Therefore the level of
Organic material is contaminants in this area
reduced or stabilized and and below is small.
converted into energy.
Insoluble organics are
converted to soluble salts.
This results in partial
unplugging of the filter
pores during the pause
period.

Oxygen Gradient
Oxygen gradient is lower in the Air
supernatant because the total area is
available for oxygen transfer.
Water
It is higher in the sand bed because the
area available for oxygen transfer is Biologic Layer
partially blocked by the sand grains.
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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

The Start of the Run

Influent Water, high in oxygen,


nutrients and microbiology, mixes
with the supernatant. The low
The high water volume of supernatant compared to
level provides influent water results in little change
the hydrostatic to the characteristics of the influent
head to push the
Supernatant is lower in
water through
oxygen, nutrients and
the filter.
microbiology than influent
water because nutrients
were consumed during the
The dissolved pause phase.
oxygen in the
water provides the
oxygen required
by the microbes in
the biologic layer.
Initial water exiting the
filter is of very good quality.
It has spent the pause time
Organic and in the under drain and
inorganic biologically inactive lower
material is sand layers where the level
strained out at of contamination is small.
the top of the
sand.

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

Halfway Through the Run

Mobile predators travel


The water level upwards towards the influent
decreases as the water because of the more abundant
flows downward food source. Many pathogens
through the sand are consumed here.
resulting in a
decreasing pressure

The larger particles are


strained out, partially
plugging the pore Water that has spent the pause
openings. This causes period in close association
an increase in the with the biologically active
resistance of the sand to layer contains some
the flow of water. contaminants which were not
consumed by the micro
organisms. These are initially
swept through the pore
openings which have been
partially opened up during the
pause period.
This water has reduced oxygen
concentration because of
consumption by the organisms
in the biologic layer.

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

The End of the Run

Flow rate decreases Contaminants that are


with time due to easily consumed are
declining head and oxidized.
increased resistance Material from the previous
of sand. run which has been
Water flow slows partially oxidized is more
and finally stops. completely broken down.

Diffusion from
higher oxygen
content water
replenishes oxygen
in zoogeal; a slimy
substance excreted Better quality water is
by the bacteria. produced at the end of
the run because of
increasing contaminant
removal during the run
Contaminant removal time.
increases with time
because of decreasing
flow rate and the
decreased size of pore
openings.

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

Arsenic Removal
The BioSand filter can be easily modified to remove arsenic from water

If unsafe level of arsenic is found in the raw water, the regular biosand filter can be easily
modified for effective arsenic removal. This is accomplished by replacing the diffuser plate
with a deep diffuser basin. The basin will be filled with 5 kg of small, non-galvanized iron
nail, covered by a layer of brick chips.
Diffuser Basin

Lid
Brick chips
Container
Iron Nails

Water

Fine Sand
Pipe

Coarse Sand
Gravel

The iron nails in the diffuser basin, after contact with water and air, will quickly rust. Iron
rust (ferric hydroxide) is an excellent adsorbent for arsenic. When arsenic-contaminated
water is poured into the filter, arsenic may stay in the diffuser box (i.e. adsorbed to the
surface of the rusted nails in the box), or the arsenic-loaded iron particles can be flushed
down and trapped on top of fine sand. The purpose of the brick chips is to protect the
underlying iron nails from dispersing due to the force of the incoming water.

Filter Operation
Consistent operations are very important in a BioSand filter

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

Flow Rates
The micro-organisms are more closely confined near the surface of the sand bed in a biosand
water filter than in a continuously operated slow sand filter. This is because in the biosand
water filter, the oxygen supply is limited by diffusion from the surface. Because of the thin
biologic zone, there is a shorter contact time between the bio film and water during filter
runs. Slower filtration rates are therefore required in a biosand filter to produce water of
similar bacteriological quality as a continuously operated filter.

The percentage removal of contaminants is inversely proportional to the flow rate through
the filter because the biologic reduction of contaminants takes time. Each biosand filter has
been designed to allow for a filter loading rate (the flow rate per square metre of filter area)
which has proven to be effective in laboratory and field tests.

The amount of water that flows through the biosand filter is controlled by the size of sand
media contained within the filter. If the rate is too fast, the efficiency of bacterial removal
may be reduced. If the flow rate is too slow, there will be an insufficient amount of treated
water, and the users will become impatient and may use contaminated sources of water.

Pause Periods
Having pause periods is very important because it allows time for the micro-organisms in the
biologic layer to consume the pathogens captured from the water, thereby increasing the
hydraulic conductivity of the filter. As the pathogens and substrate are consumed in the
biological zone, the flow rate through the filter is restored. There is an exponential increase
in the hydraulic conductivity of the filter as the pause length is increased. Consequently, the
BioSand filter is most effective and efficient when operated intermittently.

Flow rates may increase as the length of pause period is increased. However, if the pause
period is extended for too long, the micro organisms will eventually consume all of the food
supply and then die off. This will result in a marked reduction in removal efficiency of the
filter when it is used again.

The BioSand filter is most effective and efficient when operated intermittently and
consistently. A pause period of 6-12 hours is a suggested time with a minimum of 1 hour and
a maximum of 48 hours.

Water Depths
Changes in the depth of water above the sand surface during the pause period will change the
depth of the biological zone, disrupting the efficiency of the filter. A water depth of greater
than 5-8 cm results in lower oxygen diffusion and consequently a thinner biological zone.
With increasing water depth, the bio-layer moves upwards in the sand bed and thus oxidation
and metabolism by the micro organisms decrease. Eventually, the layer dies off, and the filter
becomes a non living system which is ineffective in pathogen removal.

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

If the water depth during the pause period is increased suddenly and the water level is too
deep to allow any oxygen to reach the biologic layer, the entire biologically active zone
becomes anaerobic.

A high water level can be caused by a blocked outlet spout or by an insufficient amount of
sand media. Correct installation and operation of the biosand filter results in the required
constant water level of approximately 5 cm (2”) above the sand during pause periods.

Influent Water Quality


Over time, the micro-organisms in the biologic layer become adapted to conditions where a
certain amount of food is available. When an influent spike occurs, whereby an increased
level of contamination in the water is present, the micro-organisms are unable to consume or
destroy all the contaminants. The spike event may provide enough contaminants that the
filter will not degrade and destroy them for several days. Previous experiments have
indicated that the largest portion of bacteria from a spike show up in the effluent water the
next day (Buzunis, 95).

The water supplied to the filter can be from rain water, deep wells, shallow wells, rivers,
lakes, reservoirs or surface water. It should be consistently taken from the same source
because the biological layer cannot quickly adapt to different influent water quality.

The turbidity or amount of suspended particles in the water is also a key factor in the
operation of the filter. The influent water should be relatively free of suspended particles. If
the turbidity is greater than 100 NTU, the water should be pre filtered before it goes though
the biosand filter. A simple test to measure the turbidity is to use a 2 Litre clear plastic soft
drink bottle filled with water. Place this on top of large print such as the CAWST logo on this
manual. If you can see this logo, the water probably has a turbidity of less than 50 NTU.

Filtered water quality


To ensure that all bacteria are killed and to provide the highest possible quality of water for
the users, it is recommended that a disinfection process such as chlorine addition or SODIS
be used in conjunction with the BioSand filter. Disinfection with chlorine bleach is
accomplished by adding 4 drops of bleach to one Litre of filtered water (1 teaspoon to 5
gallons). Mix the water well and let sit for 30 minutes before drinking. The water should
have a slight bleach odour. If it does not, then add a similar quantity of bleach and wait 15
minutes. The residual free chlorine should be approximately 0.4 to 0.5 mg/l using a
comparator or test strip method of analysis.

Maintenance
Over time, continued use of the filter causes the pore opening between the sand grains to
become clogged with debris. As a result, the flow rate of water through the filter decreases.

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

To clean the filter, the surface of the sand must be agitated, thereby suspending captured
material in the standing layer of water. The dirty water can then be simply removed using a
small container. The process can be repeated as many times as necessary to regain the
desired flow rate. After cleaning, a re-establishment of the biological zone takes places
quickly, returning the removal efficiency to the previous level.

Time
It normally takes a period of three weeks for the biologic layer to develop to maturity in a
new filter. During that time, both the removal efficiency and the oxygen demand of the filter
increase as the biologic layer grows. BioSand filters are cleaned by stirring up the thin layer
of sand at the surface and scooping out the resulting dirty water. After cleaning, the removal
efficiency declines somewhat, but increases very quickly to its previous level as the bio-layer
is re-established. This effect is illustrated in the following figure.

Filter Effectiveness Over Time - After Maintenance

Removal
Efficiency

% Filter
Cleaning

Time
Weeks

As for arsenic, effective removal will occur as soon as the iron nails are rusted. Therefore,
non-galvanized iron nails are highly preferred because they can be rusted within hours.
Small nails are desirable because of their large surface areas, thus more adsorption sites for
arsenic.

Conclusion

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

In conclusion, although the BioSand filter is simple in appearance and low in cost, it has been
carefully engineered. Feedback on potential improvements is strongly encouraged so that the
filter design can be continuously improved. However, independent field modifications of
the design, installation or operation of the filter may result in incorrect functioning and
sub optimal performance.

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

The BioSand Filter Advantages


can remove bacteria 90 - 99.99 % of the time • by physical straining
• predation
• natural die - off
can remove viruses ~ 99 % • by physical straining
• predation
• natural die - off
can remove protozoa ~ 99 % • by physical straining
• predation
• natural die - off
can remove helminths 100% • physical straining

can remove iron • oxidizes into particles which are


strained
• physical straining
Can remove arsenic 85 – 95% • by adding 5 kg of non-galvanized
iron nails to the diffuser basin

The BioSand Filter Limitations


cannot handle high turbidity • plugs prematurely
continuously
cannot remove some dissolved • molecular sized particles
compounds e.g. salt, hardness
cannot guarantee pathogen free (lab 97 - 99.9 %) • small bacteria
(field 90 - 99 %) • risk of poor operation
• recontamination
• if required, use disinfection
(bleach)
cannot remove all organic chemicals • small size
(i.e. pesticides, fertilizers)
cannot remove all colour from the • sometimes brown, organic
water water may not be removed

Comparing Technologies
The following notes apply to the biosand filter and can be used when comparing it to other
technologies.

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

Functionality
The term functionality considers how appropriate the technology is for the user.

The BioSand filter is a ‘point of use’ or household treatment device. The water to be filtered
can be obtained from the closest water supply point, whether river, stream or well, carried to
the filter, and used immediately after filtering. The water supply, water treatment and water
distribution are therefore all within the control of the individual householder. Effective use of
the technology does not require the formation of user groups or other community support
which are sometimes difficult to develop. The independence of the household makes this
technology extremely suitable for use in developing countries which often lack the
governance and regulatory processes needed for effective and efficient multi-family systems.

The operation and maintenance of the filter are simple. There are no moving parts that
require skill to operate. When the flow through the filter becomes too low, the maintenance
consists simply of washing the top few centimetres of sand. The operation and maintenance
of the filter are therefore well within the capacity of women in the household, who are
normally responsible for food preparation and care of the children.

The filter takes up very little space and can easily fit into most rooms. In fact, previous
experience has shown that because it is so important to the individual household, it normally
occupies a place of significance in the living room.

Capital Cost
The cost of providing potable water to the household is simply the cost of the filter since the
cost of water supply and distribution can be provided by the individual householder’s labour.

The cost of a concrete BioSand water filter is approximately $15 US. This cost does not
change dramatically from country to country, because its principal components, concrete and
sand and gravel are readily available in all developing countries. The manufacture of the
filters also involves a significant labour component to mix the concrete and place it in the
filter mold. The skills required to do this are again readily available in developing countries
at a very low cost, and, in fact, can be provided by the individual home owner himself.

Operating Costs
The cost of operating the filter is negligible. There are no consumables involved in the
filtration process. There are no moving parts which require replacement on an ongoing basis.
Maintenance costs may include the occasional replacement of iron nails (for arsenic removal)
and any wooden components (lid ) that may deteriorate over time. This cost may amount to
$1 to 2 US over a 3 year span. Consequently, once installed, the filter can be used almost
indefinitely with negligible cost to the owner.

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Module 2.1 BioSand Filter Purpose and Design

Appendices
Appendix A: BioSand Filter – Specification Sheet

Appendix B: BioSand Filter – Summary of all Lab and Field Tests

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