Effect of supernatant water level on As removal in biological rapid sand filters

J. C.J. Gude*, K. Joris, K. Huysman, L. C. Rietveld, D. van Halem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Current groundwater treatment facilities, mostly relying on aeration-filtration configurations, aim at the removal of iron (Fe), ammonia (NH 4 + ) and manganese (Mn). However, recently water companies expressed the ambition to also reduce arsenic (As) concentrations in these rapid sand filters. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of the Fe oxidation state entering a biological filter bed on As removal. By varying supernatant water level, either Fe(II) or Fe(III) in the form of hydrous ferric oxides (HFO) could be stimulated to enter the filter bed at alkaline groundwater pH (7.6). The experimental pilot column filters showed that once the As(III) oxidation stabilised in the top layer of the filter sand, As removal reached its maximum (±75% at 120 cm supernatant level and 1.5 m/h filtration velocity). The increase in supernatant level from 5 to 120 cm resulted in additional HFO production prior to rapid filtration (1.5, 5 and 10 m/h), i.e. homogeneous Fe(II) oxidation and flocculation, and subsequently, HFO ending up deeper into the filter bed (120 cm filter depth). At a low supernatant water level of 5 cm, Fe(II) oxidised heterogeneously and was removed within the top 20 cm of the filter bed. Consequently, filters with high supernatant levels removed As to lower levels (by 20%) than in filters with low supernatant water levels. The benefits of Fe(II) oxidation prior to filtration for As removal was confirmed by comparing Fe(III) to Fe(II) additions in the supernatant water or in the filter bed. Overall it is concluded that in biological groundwater filters, the combination of a higher supernatant level and/or Fe(III) addition with biological As(III) oxidation in the top of the filter bed promotes As removal.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100013
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Arsenic removal
  • Fe(II)/Fe(III) additions
  • Rapid sand filtration
  • Supernatant water level


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