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Trickling Filters

A trickling filter consists of a bed of highly permeable media on whose surface a mixed
population of microorganisms is developed as a slime layer. The word "filter" in this case is not
correctly used for there is no straining or filtering action involved. Passage of wastewater
through the filter causes the development of a gelatinous coating of bacteria, protozoa and other
organisms on the media. With time, the thickness of the slime layer increases preventing oxygen
from penetrating the full depth of the slime layer. In the absence of oxygen, anaerobic
decomposition becomes active near the surface of the media. The continual increase in the
thickness of the slime layer, the production of anaerobic end products next to the media surface,
and the maintenance of a hydraulic load to the filter, eventually causes sloughing of the slime
layer to start to form. This cycle is continuously repeated throughout the operation of a trickling
filter. For economy and to prevent clogging of the distribution nozzles, trickling filters should be
preceded by primary sedimentation tanks equipped with scum collecting devices.

Primary treatment ahead of trickling filters makes available the full capacity of the trickling filter
for use in the conversion of non-settleable, colloidal and dissolved solids to living microscopic
organisms and stable organic matter temporarily attached to the filter medium and to inorganic
matter temporarily attached to the filter medium and to inorganic matter carried off with the
effluent. The attached material intermittently sloughs off and is carried away in the filter
effluent. For this reason, trickling filters should be followed by secondary sedimentation tanks to
remove these sloughed solids and to produce a relatively clear effluent.

Construction and Design

The primary factors that must be considered in the design of trickling filters include: (1) the
type of filter media to be used, (2) the type and dosing characteristics of the distribution system,
and (3) the configuration of the underdrain system.

1. Filter Media: The ideal filter medium is a material that has a high surface
area per unit volume, is low in cost, has a high durability, and does not
readily clog. The choice of filter media is more often governed by the
material locally available which may include field stone, gravel, broken
stone, blast furnace slag and antracite stones. Stones less than one inch in
diameter do not provide sufficient pore space and may therefore result in
plugging of the media and ponding. The tendency is to use larger sizes
with 2 1/2 inches in diameter now considered the minimum size. Large
diameter stones tend to avoid ponding situations but also limit the surface
area per unit volume available for the slime layer to grow. An upper size
limit of about 4 inches is therefore recommended.
2. Distribution System: The rotary distributor has become standard for the
trickling filter process because of its reliability and ease of maintenance.
The rotary distributor consists of a hollow vertical center column carrying
two or more radial pipes or arms, each of which contains a number of
nozzles or orifices for discharging the wastewater onto the bed. All of
these nozzles point in the same direction at right angles to the arms and the
reaction of the discharge through them causes the arms to revolve. The
necessary reaction is furnished by a head of 18" to 24". The speed of
revolution will vary with the flow rate, but it should be in the range of one
revolution in 10 minutes or less for a two-arm distributor. A dosing tanks
and siphon should be provided for standard rate trickling filters to shut off
the flow when the head falls below that necessary to revolve the arms at
the required speed. In some cases positive drive mechanisms are being

A clearance of 6 to 9 inches should be allowed between the bottom of the distributor arm and top
of the bed. This will permit the waste streams from the nozzles to spread out and cover the bed
uniformly, and it will also prevent ice accumulation from interfering with the distributor motion
during freezing weather.

Fixed spray nozzles were used when trickling filters were first developed. The nozzles were
attached to pipes laid in the filter medium and were fed intermittently from a siphon controlled
dosing tank. By this method, wastewater is applied to the filter for short periods of time.
Between applications the filter has rest periods while the dosing tank is filling. Many types and
shapes of nozzles were developed and the siphon dosing tank was designed to attain the best
possible even distribution of wastewater over the entire surface of the filter. At best, the
distribution was not even and there were areas of the filter on which very little wastewater was

In addition, due to the greater number of nozzles used for the distribution of the wastes, clogging
and increased operational and maintenance problems were encountered.

3. Underdrain System: The underdrain system in trickling filters serves

two purposes: (a) to carry the wastewater passing through the filter and
the sloughed solids from the filter to the final clarification process, and
(b) to provide for ventilation of the filter to maintain aerobic conditions.
The underdrains are specially designed vitrified clay blocks with slotted
tops that admit the wastewater and yet support the media. The blocks are
laid directly on the filter floor, which is sloped toward the collection
channel at a 1 to 2 percent gradient. Since the underdrains also provide
ventilation for the filter it is desirable that the ventilation openings total at
least 20% of the total floor area. Normal ventilation occurs through
convection currents caused by a temperature differential between the
wastewater and the ambient air temperature. In deep filters or heavily
loaded filters, there may be some advantage in force ventilation.
Filter Classification

Trickling filters are classified by hydraulic or organic loading, as high-rate or low-rate.

The organic load on a filter is the BOD content in pounds applied to the filter. This is usually
expressed as pounds of BOD per day per 1000 cubic feet of filter medium or pounds of BOD per
day per acre foot. The hydraulic load, including recirculation flow if used, is the gallons of flow
per acre of filter surface per day.

Low-rate filters are relatively simple treatment units that normally produce a consistent effluent
quality even with varying influent strength. Depending upon the dosing system, wastewater is
applied intermittently with rest periods which generally do not exceed five minutes at the
designed rate of waste flow. With proper loadings the low-rate trickling filter, including primary
and secondary sedimentation units, should remove from 80 to 85 percent of the applied BOD.
While there is some unloading or sloughing of solids at all times, the major unloadings usually
occur several times a year for comparatively short periods of time.

High-rate filters are usually characterized by higher hydraulic and organic loadings than low-rate
filters. The higher BOD loading is accomplished by applying a larger volume of waste per acre
of surface area of the filter.

One method of increasing the efficiency of a trickling filter is to incorporate recirculation.

Recirculation is a process by which the filter effluent is returned to and reapplied onto the filter.
This recycling of the effluent increases the contact time of the waste with the microorganisms
and also helps to "seed" the lower portion of the filter with active organisms.

When recirculation is used, the hydraulic loading per unit area of filter media is increased. As a
result, higher flow velocities will usually occur causing a more continuous and uniform
sloughing of excess growths. Recirculation also helps to minimize problems with ponding and
restriction of ventilation.

Recirculation can be continuous or intermittent. Return pumping rates can either be constant or
variable. Sometimes recycling can be practiced during periods of low flow to keep the
distributors in motion, to prevent the drying of the filter growths, and to prevent freezing during
colder temperatures. Also, recirculation in proportion to flow may be utilized to reduce the
organic strength of the incoming wastes, and to smooth out diurnal flow variations.

Recirculation can be accomplished by various techniques. Some of which are as follows:

Biofilter: The bio-filter is a high-rate filter, usually 3 to 4 feet in depth, employing recirculation
at all times. The recirculation in this case involves bringing the effluent of the filter or of the
secondary sedimentation tank back through the primary settling tank. The secondary settling
tank sludge is usually very light and can be continually fed back to the primary settling tank
where the two types of sludges are collected together and pumped to the digester.

Accelo-Filter: The accelo-filter includes recirculation of unsettled effluent from the filter back
to the inlet of the filter distributor. It is used for both low-rate and high-rate filters, the former
being applicable if a well nitrified effluent is required.

Aero Filter: The aero-filter is still another process which distributes the wastewater by
maintaining a continuous rain-like application of the wastewater over the filter bed. For small
beds, distribution is accomplished by a disc distributor revolving at a high speed of 260 to 369
rpm set 20" above the surface of the filter to give a continuous rain-like distribution over the
entire bed. For large beds a large number of revolving distributor arms, 10 or more, tend to give
more uniform distribution. These filters are always operated at a rate in excess of 10 million
gallons per acre of surface area per day.
High-rate trickling filters, including primary and secondary sedimentation, should, under normal
operation, remove from 65 to 85 percent of the BOD of the wastewater. Recirculation should be
adequate to provide continuous dosage at a rate equal to or in excess of 10 million gallons per
acre per day. As a result of continuous dosing at such high rates, some of the solids accumulated
on the filter medium are washed off and carried away with the effluent continuously.

High-rate trickling filters have been used advantageously for pretreatment of industrial wastes
and unusually strong wastewaters. When so used they are called "roughing filters". With these
filters the BOD loading is usually in excess of 110 pounds of BOD per 1000 cubic feet of filter

Generally, most organic wastes can be successfully treated by trickling filtration. Normally food
processing, textile, fermentation and some pharmaceutical process wastes are amenable to
trickling filtration.

Some industrial wastewaters which cannot be treated by trickling filtration are those which
contain excessive concentration of toxic materials, such as pesticide residues, heavy metals, and
high acidic and alkaline wastes.

Since the organisms growing on the media are temperature dependent, climatic changes will
affect the filter's performance. The organisms metabolic rate increases with increasing
temperature and warmer weather. Therefore, higher loadings and greater efficiencies are
possible in warmer temperatures and climates, if aerobic conditions can be maintained in the

Common Problems

Due to its simple design, in actual operation the trickling filter is one of the most trouble-free
types of secondary treatment processes. It requires much less operating attention and process
control than the activated sludge system, but some problems do exist. The following is a
summary of some of the more common problems and cures:

1. Ponding is normally the result of: (a) excessive organic loading without
a corresponding higher recirculation rate, (b) use of media which is too
small, (c) clogging of underdrain system, (d) non-uniform media size or
breaking up of media, and (e) trash or debris in filter voids.

Ponding can cause odors and decrease filter efficiency.

Minor Ponding can be eliminated by:

1. Spraying the surface with high pressure water hose.

2. Stirring or agitating ponding area with stick, rake, etc.
3. Dousing the filter with chlorine. Applying chlorine to a ponding
filter by chlorinating at the dosing tank to produce a residual of
about one to two mg/L at the nozzles may help reduce ponding.
Chlorination is continued until the filters are free. There may be
some deterioration of efficiency of the filters during chlorination.
Obviously, if ponding is caused by the size of the media,
chlorination will be of no benefit. If the ponding is caused by
overloading, chlorination may be of temporary benefit. If ponding
was caused by excessive growths, this deteriorating condition will
usually not return until conditions, such as temperature, that caused
the excessive growth are repeated.
4. Flooding filter and keeping the media submerged for
approximately 24 hours will sometimes cause the growth to
slough. Growths become anaerobic and tend to release from
5. Shutting off the flow to the filter. The growths will die and tend to
be flushed out when the unit is put back into service.

Odors. Since the trickling filter is an aerobic process, no serious odors

should exist. If foul odors are present, anaerobic conditions are the most
likely cause. Anaerobic conditions usually predominate next to the media
If the surface of the slime growth is aerobic, odors should be minimal. If
odors are present, corrective action should be taken immediately or the
condition could get worse. Some corrective measures are:
2. Try to maintain aerobic condition in the collection system and in
the primary treatment units.
3. Check the ventilation of the filter for clogging and stoppages.
4. Check the underdrain system for clogging and stoppages.
5. Increase recirculation rate; this usually provides added oxygen to
the filter and may increase sloughing.
6. Keep wastewater in filter; do not allow it to splash on exposed
surfaces, weeds, or grass.
7. Add odor-masking agents.
8. Pre-chlorination at primary tank influent or at the dosing tank. The
dose used is not sufficient to produce residual chlorine but only to
destroy the odors. Chlorination to a residual of less than 0.5 mg/L
normally does not interfere with the activity of the living
organisms and thus does not affect the purification obtained by the
operation of a trickling filter. However, chlorination of a trickling
filter influent cannot be used until after the filter has been in active
operation. Except in a large plant, the chlorine dose is generally
set at about half the chlorine demand and not adjusted for moderate
variations in flow or strength.
9. Induce unloading of a trickling filter. A shock dose of chlorine that
will produce a residual of about 10 mg/L in the filter influent may
be applied. It requires a fairly large dose of chlorine to produce
this amount of residual. As it is only to be maintained for a short
period of time, it is most economical to apply during the night
when the flow is low and the chlorine demand at a minimum. The
chlorine is applied at the dosing tank, generally by making a slurry
of liquid hypochlorites and pouring it into the dosing tank. Two
dosing discharges containing 10 mg/L residual are generally
enough to cause the filter to unload the next day. A word of
caution -- when a filter is made to unload it does so quickly if at all
and a very large volume of secondary sludge is produced in one or
two day. Addition of this large quantity of sludge to the digesters
has caused foaming on occasions.

It should be noted that sometimes during hot weather odors will be

noticeable even from a filter in good operating condition. This
problem can be eliminated by the use of masking agents.

2. Filter Flies are a nuisance to plant personnel and nearby neighbors. These
tiny, gnat-size flies are called psychoda. They are occasionally found in
great numbers, preferring an alternate wet and dry environment for

The flies are most frequently found in low or standard rate filters with an
intermittent dosing system.

Control can be accomplished by:

1.Increasing recirculation. A continuous waste flow to the filter will

tend to wash fly larvae from the filter.
2.Flushing the side walls of the filter by opening the flap valve at the
end of the distributor arm.
3.Flooding the filter intermittently to prevent completion of the fly life
cycle. This life cycle can be as short as seven days in warm weather.
Filters should be flooded for approximately 24 hours.
4.The addition of chlorine, which is toxic to the flies and larvae.
5.Keeping the plant grounds neat, clean and free from excessive
weeds, plants, and grass, which are excellent breeding grounds for the

3. Weather Problems. Cold weather can cause an occasional build-up of ice

on the media, walls, distributor arms and orifices, resulting in operating
problems and loss of efficiency. During cold temperatures, the organism's
metabolic process slow down and as a result efficiency decreases.

Measures which can be implemented to reduce cold weather problems


1.Decrease the recirculation rate to prevent splashing at distributor

arm, but maintain sufficient flow to keep the filter working.
2.Adjust orifices at splash plates to reduce the spraying effect.
3.Construct wind screens or covers to reduce heat loss.
4.Break up any ice build-up.
5.Partially open flap gates at end of distributor arm to allow for a
stream of water rather than a spray of water.

Warm weather creates its own unique problem areas as previously


6.Ponding resulting from sloughings due to excessive organism

7.Odors resulting from anaerobic conditions. The dissolved oxygen
demand is higher in warmer weather due to higher organism activity.
8.Filter Flies
9.Degradation of final effluent due to excessive loading from
sloughings on final sedimentation tanks.

-----”Trickling Filters.”

Trickling Filter Systems Design & Application

The Modern
Trickling Filter

The modern trickling filter is quite advanced

from the rock filters of old. These new filters
are engineered systems that provide a very
cost-effective process for treatment of both
domestic and industrial wastewater. Trickling
filters are routinely designed to treat
wastewater to NPDES standards including
ammonia removal and/or they can be
designed to provide low-cost roughing of
high-strength wastewater. Trickling filters are
often teamed up with activated sludge
systems to reduce the overall cost of
wastewater treatment

PVC Trickling Filter Media

The introduction of thermoformed PVC
sheetmedia is largely responsible for the
success of the modern trickling filter. This
advancement allows construction of modules
of superior compressive strength and higher
void-volumes necessary for stacking to
heights not achievable with rock filters. In
addition, greater specific surface area makes higher organic loadings possible and makes more
efficient nitrification towers possible. Deeper bio-towers are easily ventilated because of the
higher void volumes.

New Trickling Filter Installations

New trickling filter installations take advantage of the benefits offered
by PVC sheet media:
Low Power Requirements
Trickling filters only require power for pumping and do not need large power-hungry aeration
blowers like suspended growth systems such as Activated Sludge and Sequencing Batch
Reactors. For this reason, the trickling filter is frequently used as a roughing process in tandem
with activated sludge systems
Simple Operation
The operational requirements of trickling filters are less demanding than those of activated
sludge systems. However, there is enough flexibility to allow the operator to optimize
performance. For example, recycle rates, flushing rates, and wetting rates are important variables
that can be adjusted to accommodate changing organic and hydraulic loadings. Far less control
data must be acquired andmonitored for tricklingfilter operation than for an activated-sludge
system or sequencing-batch system.
Lower Sludge Production
Trickling filters produce less sludge than suspended-growth systems. The sludge that is produced
tends to settle well because it is compact and heavy.

The Elements of the Modern Trickling Filter

• High Specific Surface Area
• Wide Flow Passages
• Superior Ventilation (Open Plenum and High Void Volume)
• Heights up to 30 feet

Upgrading Rock Filters with Sheet Media

Old rock trickling filters are being upgraded and rehabilitated with plastic sheet media. The
greater surface area and higher void volume of structured-sheet media provides improved
treatment efficiency, even at the very shallow depths used in old rock filters (typically 3 ft. to
7ft.). In some cases, the walls of the filter beds may be extended upward a few feet for additional
increases in the rated capacity of the retrofitted plant.

Compared with rock, plastic sheet media has 2-3 times the specific surface area, which provides
proportionally more area for biomass attachment. Also, the increase in the void volume from
50% to 95% improves the airflow and hydraulic loading capacity, decreases the tendency of the
system to clog with biomass, and reduces odors associated with anaerobic pockets caused by

Components of Trickling Filter Towers The components shown at the top of the
page are common to most trickling filters, regardless of the type (shallow rock
retrofit, deep BOD roughing tower, or nitrification tower).
Structured-Sheet Plastic Media
Structured-sheet plastic media is the heart of the trickling filter. The specific
type of media to be used in a given system is based on the organic loading
and wastewater treatment objectives: roughing, complete treatment, or
nitrification. The media’s specific surface area, void volume, and distribution
characteristics are important to the specific application and system

The wetting rate, organic load, ammonia load, temperature of the wastewater, and desired
effluent quality determine the volume of media required.

A typical media installation layout consists of modules 2 ft. wide x 2 ft. high x 4 ft. or 6 ft. long
placed in layers, each layer placed at a right angle to the layer below. The media is cut to fill the
tank at the periphery.

Media Support System

In newer towers, the media is supported well above the concrete floor of
the filter tower. This creates a plenum that allows air to move freely
through the vent windows and under the media/lintel structure. The air
moves up through the tower in summer (when the air is warmer than the
wastewater) or down through the tower in winter (when the air is colder
than the wastewater), providing oxygen to the bacteria throughout the

Domes & Forced-Draft Ventilation

Domes and forced-draft ventilation systems are often used in new trickling filter systems. Older,
open systems relied strictly on natural draft for ventilation. The dome at the top of the trickling
filter serves to reduce temperature losses in the winter and shield the system from strong winds
that could interfere with ventilation. In some systems, the dome is also used to collect trickling
filter vent gasses that are then channeled to scrubbers.

Rotating-Arm Distributor
A rotating arm distributes the mixed wastewater/recycled water over the top of the media. The
distribution arm can be driven by hydraulic reaction or by mechanical means. Typically, the
speed of rotation can be adjusted to effect higher media flushing intensity. Speed change in the
distributor mechanism is particularly valuable in systems that have high organic loads. In
nitrification towers, speed change is used to flush predators, such as snails, from the tower.

Recycle Pump
A collection trough at the bottom of the tower collects the treated wastewater and channels it to a
sump, where it can be recycled as wastewater or discharged to a secondary clarifier.

Types of Trickling Filter Media

Cross Flow Media
Cross flow media is made of
sheets formed with alternating
corrugations at 60° to vertical.
The sheets are solvent-welded to
each other to form modules for
easy stacking in the biofilter
vessel. The down-flowing liquid is
split at each cross point creating
180 redistribution points per foot
of depth for Brentwood CFS-3000 CF-1900
(31 ft2/ft3) media and up to 720
mixing points per foot of depth for
the CF-1900 (48 ft2/ft3).

Vertical Flow Media

Vertical flow media has vertical
channels with contact points at
one foot intervals. Lacking the
cross-mixing points of cross flow
media, vertical flow media
redistributes the flow only at
module interface. As a result,
vertical flow media has superior VF-5000
bio-solids flushing action.

Mixed Media
The optimal configuration of media in the
modern bio-tower over 16 ft. deep is the
combination of cross flow media in the upper
two layers with vertical media in the lower
layers. This configuration combines the superior
distribution properties of cross flow media with
the reduced potential for clogging of vertical
flow media, to give consistent and efficient
biological wastewater treatment.

Trickling Filter Applications

BOD Roughing and Secondary Treatment

For pre-treatment of high-strength wastes or BOD reduction prior to further treatment for
nitrification, CFS-3000 alone (for shallow rock filter retrofits) or CFS-3000 in combination with
VF-5000 (30 ft2/ft3) in deep bio-towers are the usual selections because of the large non-
clogging passages, maximum re-distribution points, and good ventilation.

Bio-towers intended for ammonia oxidation following BOD roughing can use higher surface area
media with smaller passages, such as the CF-1900 (48 ft2/ft3) alone or in combination with VF-
3800 (40 ft2/ft3) media. Thinner bio-films in the nitrification process are less likely to cause
plugging of the narrow passages.

Other Applications for Structured Media

While not normally considered trickling filters, two other types of biological waste treatment
processes commonly use structured-sheet media. Commonly referred to as “submerged fixed
film,” anaerobic decomposition of wastewater is achieved in covered tanks filled with media to
support the attached growth anaerobic organisms. Nitrogen removal via biological de-
nitrification is accomplished by mixing nitrified wastewater with a carbon source, such as raw
wastewater, and passing that liquid through media-filled tanks containing denitrifying organisms.

(m2/m3) (no./m3)


CFS-3000 31 (102) 180 (6,356) including BOD
and polishing

CF-1900 48 (157) 720 (25,424) Wastewater

especially shallow-
BOD roughing and
polishing, nitrification,
and denitrification


BOD reduction of
VF-5000 30 (98) —
high strength wastes

Nitrification in mixed
VF-3800 40 (131) —
media applications


CFS-3000 All BOD oxidation

& VF- applications greater
5000 than 16 ft. depth

CF-1900 All nitrification

& VF- applications greater
3800 than 16 ft. depth

Trickling Filter Characteristics

Click here for a performance comparison between Rock Filters and PVC Media
Filters. Table will open in a separate window. Trickling Filter Process Design
The first process design approach to use fundamental principles was published by
Velz(1) in 1948. His equation expressed BOD removal as a first order function of

filter depth: Schultz modified the Velz equation

to account for hydraulic loading rate (gal/min/ft2), and Germain later applied

Schultz’s formula to plastic trickling filter media.

MOP 8 provides a large array of measured values for the coefficients in Germain’s formula for a
variety of wastewater types. The effect of temperature is generally given as:

Process Design Assistace from Brentwood

Brentwood can provide design assistance using a proprietary model based on bio-filter
performance data compiled from a number of sources, including both published and non-
published data.

Wetting Rates

The overall application rate of wastewater to the trickling filter, including recirculation,
expressed as gpm/ft2 of the filter area, is known as the “Wetting Rate.” The desired wetting rate
ranges from 0.05 gpm/ft2 to a maximum of 3 gpm/ft2, but is more typically in the range of 0.25
to 1 for BOD removal systems and 0.75 to 2 gpm/ft2 for
nitrification trickling filters.

If the average wetting rate is too low, the water may not penetrate the depth of the filter bed
uniformly. It may channel away from some areas and leave damp unwetted areas that can act as
incubators for pests like filter flies and snails (in nitrification towers). Also, biological
populations not continuously wetted and fed by wastewater become ineffective. Those areas of
the filter tower will not be available to provide effective treatment of wastewater during periods
of higher flow. Semi-dry biomass can also putrefy and create odor problems.

Recycle of treated wastewater is an effective method of keeping all areas and depths of the
trickling filter biologically active when the influent flow is too low for proper wetting.

Instantaneous Wetting Rate

From the work of the German wastewater treatment industry, a term has been developed that
identifies the Instantaneous Application Rate. This term is the SpülKraft Rate, or SK Rate, that
has the units of mm of water per pass of the distributor arms.

Hydraulically-driven rotary distributors in the normal operating mode usually rotate at a rate of 1
revolution per 3/4 to 1-1/2 minutes and have two or four arms. The SK Rate may be in the range
of 0.3 to 0.5 mm per pass in rock filters and from 5 to 30 mm per pass in more modern filters.

If recycle capacity is minimal and the operator has the ability to slow the rotation speed of the
distributor, it is possible to compensate somewhat for low wetting rates by using higher SK
values. Higher SK values will provide more complete penetration of the filter media depth and
keep the bulk of the filter wetted.

Short cycle times of dryness between flushing will not be as detrimental to the biomass as a
general starvation for water in pockets of media that are by-passed at low wetting rates.

Recirculation Benefits

Recirculating treated effluent to the trickling filter dilutes the influent wastewater entering the
trickling filter. Since the BOD removal process is first order (i.e., the rate of removal of BOD is
affected by the initial concentration of BOD), recirculation helps distribute the loading evenly
through the depth of the filter. It also helps to manage the diurnal variation in loading while
maintaining a minimum wetting rate throughout the day. In general, higher recirculation ratios
(recirculation flow rate : influent flow rate) the better the effluent quality, at least to the point
where the hydraulic retention time in the filter bed becomes too short. Typical recirculation rates
are 1-3 times the daily average influent wastewater flow.
When dealing
with nitrification filters, the benefit of recirculation only applies to maintaining high
wetting rates, since the rate of ammonia removal is zero order to ammonia
concentrations down to 2 ppm NH3-N concentrations. This means that only the
availability and mass of the bacteria on the tower
determine ammonia removal as long as the ammonia
is greater than 2 ppm. Media Support Systems
In a typical arrangement, the bottom layer of media
modules are placed on 8 or 10-inch wide support
beams spaced across the tank on 2 ft. centers. In the
case of 10 inch support beams, a 2 inch wide center
channel provides proper drainage. At the tank wall
and around the center distributor column, a ledge 4
incheswide is used to support small pieces of cut media
AccuPier Support System
An alternative to the conventional concrete beam & pier system is the Brentwood
AccuPier® System. This pre-engineered support system, consisting of field-
adjustable plastic stanchions and fiberglass grating, is more economical and offers
better air flow than concrete beam & pier supports. The open structure of the
AccuPier system provides excellent ventilation and drainage. The glass-reinforced
ABS piers have field-adjustable bases to accommodate sloping floors. The PVC pier
stanchions are cut to length for the specific installation. Fiberglass grating in
nominal 12 inch widths x 20 ft. lengths, pre-cut for the tank
dimensions, spans the piers to give a flat, level surface to support
the media. The piers are arranged in rows 2 or 3 ft. apart, and the
spacing between piers within the row varies from 2 to 4 ft,
depending on tower height and grating strength. Media
Dedicated Bond Joints
Because the modules are constructed of vertical, corrugated sheets of PVC, the
structural strength of the modules is dependent on the bonds between adjacent
panels. Solvent welding at dedicated bond points, formed in the sheets to provide
adequate bonding surface, ensures the structural integrity of AccuPac media
Compressive Strength of Modules
The structural integrity of the media is paramount to the longevity of the filter.
Typically, each layer of the media is constructed to support the static weight of the
media above, including the attached biomass and the transient loading of the
applied wastewater. Industry practice is to use a factor of 40 lb/ft2 per foot of tower
height. The bottom layer is constructed to a minimum standard of 1000 lb/ft2 to
support the full height of the tower on the support beams. The top layer is also
designed to support 1000 lb/ft2 to accommodate possible foot traffic during
maintenance. This can be reduced to 700 lbs/ft2 when protective surface grating is

used. Module Testing

In addition to the physical and mechanical properties of the PVC sheet stock used in
forming the media sheets, the structural strength of the modules is also determined
by material sheet thickness and module configuration. For example, because the
CF-1900 has more sheets per 24 inch wide module than the CFS-3000, it has
greater surface area, and is, therefore, inherently stronger than a CFS-3000 module
with the same sheet thickness. Crossflow modules are inherently stronger than
vertical flow modules because of the crossed alignment of the bond joints.
Therefore, empirical testing is necessary to ensure structural soundness of the wide
variety of media types and sheet thicknesses of the PVC material. An industry-
standard test procedure uses four modules in two layers placed at right angles to
each other in a hydraulic test apparatus. The module deflection is measured as a
function of the load applied. The deflection should not exceed 1.5% at the design
load. Media Protection

The hydraulic impact of the wastewater and braking jets of the hydraulic distributor can, over
time, damage the surface of the media. Also, it is often necessary to walk on the surface of a
trickling filter. Good tower hygiene requires removal of debris that accumulates on the top of the
filters. The distributor arms and bearings in the distribution tower also need to be serviced
regularly to maintain proper operation and equipment longevity.
Brentwood AccuGrid
Brentwood AccuGrid™ polypropylene grating provides that additional
protection for the surface of the filter surface. This grid, when placed over the
top surface of the media in the trickling filter system, will provide a non-skid
walking surface that is strong and durable against foot traffic and will help to
reduce the hydraulic impact on the media.

Economic Considerations

While direct economic comparison to other treatment processes can only be made on a case-by-
case basis, some general comparisons can be made.

• The containment vessel for bio-towers does not need to be constructed to hold the weight of the
wastewater, as do activated sludge tanks. Vessels are often built of low-cost, pre-cast concrete
panels or bolted steel plates.

• Power consumption for bio-towers is limited to pumping wastewater and re-circulated

wastewater. No aeration power is needed (with the exception, in certain cases, of ventilation

• Maintenance for bio-towers is limited to the distributor arm and pumps. Blowers, air diffusers,
return sludge pumps, and associated electrical equipment and controls are not needed.

• Less operator labor is needed to monitor, sample, and make adjustments to the process for the
simpler trickling filter.

• Odor containment, if desired, is accomplished with the simple addition of a dome cover to the
bio-tower tank.

The Brentwood Trickling Filter System A complete system for the internal
components of a typical trickling filter includes: media support system; structured
sheet media; and protective surface grating. As a manufacturer of all these
components, Brentwood Industries is capable of supplying a complete system, with
a full structural warranty. All components are engineered by Brentwood to work with
each other and provide the lowest installed cost. In addition to engineering the
system and manufacturing the components, Brentwood can provide on-site
assistance for installation of the system.

--- “Trickling Filter Systems Design and Application.” Brentwood Industries, Inc.

Trickling Filters
Trickling filter is an attached growth process i.e. process in which
microorganisms responsible for treatment are attached to an inert packing
material. Packing material used in attached growth processes include rock,
gravel, slag, sand, redwood, and a wide range of plastic and other synthetic

Process Description

• The wastewater in trickling filter is distributed over the top area of a

vessel containing non-submerged packing material.
• Air circulation in the void space, by either natural draft or blowers,
provides oxygen for the microorganisms growing as an attached
• During operation, the organic material present in the wastewater is
metabolised by the biomass attached to the medium. The biological
slime grows in thickness as the organic matter abstracted from the
flowing wastewater is synthesized into new cellular material.
• The thickness of the aerobic layer is limited by the depth of
penetration of oxygen into the microbial layer.
• The micro-organisms near the medium face enter the endogenous
phase as the substrate is metabolised before it can reach the micro-
organisms near the medium face as a result of increased thickness of
the slime layer and loose their ability to cling to the media surface. The
liquid then washes the slime off the medium and a new slime layer
starts to grow. This phenomenon of losing the slime layer is called
• The sloughed off film and treated wastewater are collected by an
underdrainage which also allows circulation of air through filter. The
collected liquid is passed to a settling tank used for solid- liquid

Types of Filters

Trickling filters are classified as high rate or low rate, based on the organic
and hydraulic loading applied to the unit.

Low Rate
S.No. Design Feature High Rate Filter
Hydraulic loading,
1. 1-4 10 - 40
Organic loading,kg
2. 0.08 - 0.32 0.32 - 1.0
BOD / m3.d
3. Depth, m. 1.8 - 3.0 0.9 - 2.5
0.5 - 3.0 (domestic wastewater) upto 8 for
4. Recirculation ratio 0
strong industrial wastewater.

• The hydraulic loading rate is the total flow including recirculation appied on unit area of
the filter in a day, while the organic loading rate is the 5 day 20°C BOD, excluding the
BOD of the recirculant, applied per unit volume in a day.
• Recirculation is generally not adopted in low rate filters.
• A well operated low rate trickling filter in combination with secondary settling tank may
remove 75 to 90% BOD and produce highly nitrified effluent. It is suitable for treatment
of low to medium strength domestic wastewaters.
• The high rate trickling filter, single stage or two stage are recommended for medium to
relatively high strength domestic and industrial wastewater. The BOD removal efficiency
is around 75 to 90% but the effluent is only partially nitrified.
• Single stage unit consists of a primary settling tank, filter, secondary settling tank and
facilities for recirculation of the effluent. Two stage filters consist of two filters in series
with a primary settling tank, an intermediate settling tank which may be omitted in
certain cases and a final settling tank.

Process Design
Generally trickling filter design is based on empirical relationships to find the
required filter volume for a designed degree of wastewater treatment. Types
of equations:

1. NRC equations (National Research Council of USA)

2. Rankins equation
3. Eckenfilder equation
4. Galler and Gotaas equation

NRC and Rankin's equations are commonly used. NRC equations give
satisfactory values when there is no re-circulation, the seasonal variations in
temperature are not large and fluctuations with high organic loading.
Rankin's equation is used for high rate filters.

NRC equations: These equations are applicable to both low rate and high
rate filters. The efficiency of single stage or first stage of two stage filters, E2
is given by

E2= 100

For the second stage filter, the efficiency E3 is given by

E3= 100
[(1+0.44)/(1- E2)](F2.BOD/V2.Rf2)1/2

where E2= % efficiency in BOD removal of single stage or first stage of two-
stage filter, E3=% efficiency of second stage filter, F1.BOD= BOD loading of
settled raw sewage in single stage of the two-stage filter in kg/d, F2.BOD=
F1.BOD(1- E2)= BOD loading on second-stage filter in kg/d, V1= volume of first
stage filter, m3; V2= volume of second stage filter, m3; Rf1= Recirculation
factor for first stage, R1= Recirculation ratio for first stage filter, Rf2=
Recirculation factor for second stage, R2= Recirculation ratio for second
stage filter.

Rankins equation: This equation also known as Tentative Method of Ten

States USA has been successfully used over wide range of temperature. It
requires following conditions to be observed for single stage filters:

1. Raw settled domestic sewage BOD applied to filters should not exceed
1.2 kg BOD5/day/ m3 filter volume.
2. Hydraulic load (including recirculation) should not exceed 30 m3/m2
filter surface-day.
3. Recirculation ratio (R/Q) should be such that BOD entering filter
(including recirculation) is not more than three times the BOD
expected in effluent. This implies that as long as the above conditions
are satisfied efficiency is only a function of recirculation and is given

E= (R/Q) + 1
(R/Q) + 1.5

-”Trickling Filters.” Lecture.