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Ecological Engineering 37 (2011) 18421848

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Ecological Engineering
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ecoleng

Improvement of drinking water quality by using plant biomass through


household biosand lter A decentralized approach
Shams Ali Baig, Qaisar Mahmood , Bahadar Nawab, Mustafa Nawaz Shafqat, Arshid Pervez
Sustainable Water Sanitation Health and Development Program, Department of Environmental Science, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Abbottabad, Pakistan

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 17 January 2011
Received in revised form 8 May 2011
Accepted 17 June 2011
Available online 20 July 2011
Keywords:
Coniferous pinus bark biomass
Biosand lter
E. coli
Decentralized treatment
Total coliforms

a b s t r a c t
The removal of microbial and physico-chemical contaminants was investigated using an innovative
biosand lter (BSF) containing three combinations of coniferous pinus bark biomass (CPBB), i.e. 1 cm
(treatment 2), 2.5 cm (treatment 3) and 5 cm (treatment 4). The efciency of BSF was assessed in batch
mode experiments and the comparative reductions of contaminants were monitored over the control
treatment (1) at temperature range of 115 C for 90 days. Standard methods were used to analyze 9
operating, physico-chemicals and biological water quality parameters of pre-and post-water ltration
samples after 15 days interval. The results showed mean 93 2% and 95 3% reductions of Eischerichia
coli and total coliforms, respectively, for BSF containing the highest depth of CPBB (5 cm), whereby 100%
removal was observed during the treatment time T30 to T45 days. The general afnity sequence for E. coli,
total coliforms and turbidity removal in the four treatments was: BSF with 5 cm CPBB > BSF with 2.5 cm
CPBB > BSF with 1 cm CPBB > Control. It was concluded that modied BSF with additional adsorbent of
locally available CPBB is a very good decentralized treatment option for drinking water.
2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Childrens Emergency Fund (UNICEF) global assessment reports have
indicated that most of the worlds human population do not have
access to microbiologically safe drinking water, while one sixth of
the world population (1.1 billion people) have access to adequately
safe water supplies (Mara, 2008; Varbanets et al., 2009). Approximately 80% of communicable diseases in the world are water-borne
(Shengji et al., 2004). The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
set a target to halve the proportion of people without sustainable
access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015 compared to
1990. WHO (2004) assessed progress toward MDGs and reported
that considerable progress was achieved in the provisions of safe
drinking water, increasing from 71% in 1990 to 80% in 2004. But
there is still a long way to reach this goal by 2015 (WHO, 2004; UN,
2006; Mara, 2008).
Microbial contamination of drinking water causes dozens of
infectious diseases in developing countries (Arnal et al., 2001). The
underlying reason seems to be that treatment methods are generally non-functional and their effectiveness cannot be guaranteed
where they are implemented. Presently, boiling of water is mostly

Corresponding author. Tel.: +92 992 383591/5; fax: +92 992 383441.
E-mail address: mahmoodzju@gmail.com (Q. Mahmood).
0925-8574/$ see front matter 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.ecoleng.2011.06.011

used in some countries as a disinfection method, but affordability


of its running cost is a major concern (Sobsey, 2002).
In poor countries, water supply infrastructure and services
often lack proper management and supervision in the rural
communities (Pryor et al., 1998). Centralized treatment systems are usually unaffordable due to remote locations and
lack of nancial resources and skilled professionals (Lenton and
Wright, 2004). Weak institutional arrangement, lack of nancial resources for operation and maintenance and inadequate
technical knowledge lead the existing water supply systems to
be unsustainable for delivery of their services (Swartz, 2000;
Lenton and Wright, 2004; Momba et al., 2005). In addition,
economic viability of centralized drinking water treatment systems is very crucial in the sparsely settled rural populations of
all countries and it is also observed that the trend is shifting
toward decentralized solutions in these cases (Varbanets et al.,
2009).
In the absence of access to safe drinking water sources, decentralized drinking water treatment allows the improvement of
quality of potable water for poor people by treating it at the domestic level, thus ensuring the safety of their drinking water (Sobsey,
2002). One such promising decentralized drinking water treatment technology at the household scale is the biosand lter (BSF)
the sand lter containing some additional biological material
as ltration media (Murcott, 2002). Half a million people worldwide depend on BSF for the provision of safe drinking water and

S.A. Baig et al. / Ecological Engineering 37 (2011) 18421848

a number of performance reports have addressed BSF implementation, users satisfaction and the percent removal of E. coli and
thermotolerant coliforms in the eld conditions (Kaiser et al., 2002;
Earwaker, 2006; Duke et al., 2006; Stauber et al., 2006). In developing countries, the suitability of intermittently household slow
sand lter is gaining impetus (Palmateer et al., 1999). More than
100,000 BSFs are providing improved drinking water to more than
500,000 people worldwide (Fewster et al., 2004; Elliott et al., 2008).
Conventional BSFs can remove suspended solids and microbes by
the top biological layer (schmutzdecke) above a few centimeters
of the sand column, which offers the capability to remove 99% of
enteric waterborne pathogens, if properly constructed, operated
and maintained (Hijnen et al., 2004). No such study on conventional BSF performance has been reported in temperate regions,
particularly in Pakistan, so far.
BSF is one of the affordable decentralized or household water
treatment options which has been practiced for a long time and
is economical to construct, operate and maintain (Buzunis, 1995,
Manz, 2007). However, the ltration of this household BSF does
not fulll the recommended national and international drinking
water quality guideline values in removing pathogens and physicochemical pollutants. Further, the current established Manzs design
BSF (ibid.) was not compatible with the temperate environment
in general and Pakistans environment in particular, based on
geographic and atmospheric variations due to lower ltration efciencies. The conventional slow sand lters are less efcient in
removing pathogens from drinking water. In view of this problem,
an innovative BSF containing coniferous pinus bark biomass (CPBB)
as an additional adsorbent medium, its low cost and local availability were hypothesized to improve drinking water quality in order
to meet the drinking water quality standards.
Therefore, the objectives of the study were to develop a modied BSF with a focus on measuring the comparative efciency
of BSF to reduce E. coli, total coliforms and other pollutants, and
thus improving of drinking water quality with respect to National
Environmental Quality Standards of Pakistan.
2. Materials and methods
2.1. Biosand lter design and modication
After the success of sand ltration at a large scale in late 20thcentury in Europe, researchers at University of Calgary, Canada,
developed a scaled-down adaptation of this technology at the
household level of intermittent operation called with BSF (Sobsey,
2002). The current BSF design with CPBB was used with a view to
improve drinking water quality with respect to Northern areas of
Pakistan where bacteriological contamination was prevalent. So,
our modied BSF was suited for mountainous regions in general
and northern Pakistan in particular due to its light weight.

1843

Fig. 1. Modied BSF containing only sand as lter medium (control BSF).

2.3. Biosand lters and media preparation


In four sets of modied BSFs or treatments (14), the lter media
were lled according to the following specications:
5 cm of under-drain gravel (15 mm diameter) at the bottom,
5 cm medium-sized support gravel (6 mm diameter),
45 cm of sand with effective size (D10 ) of 0.190.22 mm, (D60 )
of 0.660.90 mm and the uniformity coefcient (D60 /D10 ) was
3.54.0 mm (Huisman and Wood, 1974; Visscher et al., 1987),
followed by 3 cm of top gravel layer (612 mm) for maintaining
equal water dissipation.
Two control BSFs or treatment 1 (1a and 1b) (Fig. 1) containing
only sand as lter media were maintained as control and the same
compositions of sand were adjusted for the other BSFs or treatments with an addition of different depths of CPBB (36 mm size)
with the following specications:
BSF containing 1 cm depth in treatment 2 (BSFs 2a and 2b) comprised treatment 2,
BSF containing 2.5 cm depth in treatment 3 (BSFs 3a and 3b) and
comprised treatment 3, and
BSF containing 5 cm depth in treatment 4 (BSFs 4a and 4b) comprised treatment 4 (Fig. 2).

2.2. Experimental setup


Our designed BSFs (Figs. 1 and 2) were constructed from locally
available materials (gravel, sand and CPBB). Eight modied BSFs
were prepared for laboratory-scale evaluation with the following
specication: diameter of 15 cm; length, 90 cm with a thickness
of 3.7 cm with 10 cm PCC (Plain Cement Concrete) at the bottom and then was tted with a half-inch perforated galvanized
iron (GI) outlet pipe with tap near the bottom to drain the water
with an unsaturated ow mechanism. The systems were operated at 115 C keeping them outdoors. The daytime temperature
nearly corresponded to eld conditions of temperate regions of
Pakistan.

Fig. 2. Modied BSFs 2, 3 and 4 containing 1 cm, 2.5 cm and 5 cm CPBB as lter media
within sand column and free board space of 19 cm, 17.5 cm and 15 cm, respectively.

S.A. Baig et al. / Ecological Engineering 37 (2011) 18421848

Different depths of CPBB layers in the remaining three sets of


treatments were prepared in the middle, separating or bisecting
the sand column in to 30 cm lower part with 15 cm upper part
of the BSFs. The lter media were sieved and washed to remove
the clay particles, organic contents and other materials according to the standard procedures for BSF developed by Manz (2007).
Filter media, e.g. sand and gravel, were obtained from the local
vendor and brought from Lawrencepur (District Haripur, Pakistan).
CPBB was collected from COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT) Abbottabad campus; sun-dried and cut into the sizes
of 36 mm. The CPBB was kept for 24 h in small basin containing
hot water in order to remove the color to avoid any risk of color
leaching during ltration.

0.48

Hydruallic Flow Rate (L/min)

1844

0.46
0.44
0.42
0.40
0.38
0.36
0.34
0.32
0.30

1. Control BSFs
2. 1 cm media depth
3. 2.5 cm media depth
4. 5 cm media depth

0.28
T0

Controlled mean E. coli and total coliforms concentration of


90 cfu/100 ml and 60 cfu/100 ml were achieved by adding 2 ml fresh
sewage water collected from the sewage manhole of student dormitories at CIIT Abbottabad. Sewage water (2 ml) was added into
20 L of tap water sample and daily poured to each BSF or treatment.
Such synthetic microbial contaminated water samples reected
the real drinking water situation at the consumer end, assessed
by CIIT Abbottabad under UNICEF funded project named WAQIPH
(Water Quality Improvement and Promotion of Hygiene) in 2005
earthquake affected areas of Pakistan.
2.5. Water analysis
The water quality of pre- and post-ltration water samples
from the four BSFs or treatments 1, 2, 3 and 4 was examined for
microbiological parameters (E. coli and total coliforms), and other
physico-chemical parameters such as hydraulic ow rates, turbidity, hardness, pH and chloride contents. Controlled mean E. coli
and total coliforms of 90 cfu/100 ml and 60 cfu/100 ml, respectively,
were seeded in 20 L tap water sample was poured daily to each
BSF or treatment from day zero (T0) to day 90 (T90). Water was
poured once through each treatment in a day and subsequently
tested for various parameters. The treated efuents were experimentally tested by grab sampling in batches at different treatment
times of T0, T15, T30, T45, T60, T75 and T90 days.
The pre- and post-ltration water sampling, preservation and
tests were performed according to the standard methods (APHA,
1992). Water samples (100 ml) for the bacteriological tests were
collected from the control experiments throughout passing of 20 L
water in each BSF or treatment. Membrane ltration technique and
total plate count methods were applied to analyze E. coli and total
coliforms of the pre and post water quality, respectively (Wohlsen
et al., 2006). Turbidity meter (Loviband GmnH 44287 Dortmund PC
43637, Germany) was used to measure turbidity. To make compatible with eld water samples, controlled turbid water was prepared
by adding very ne clean clay particles into 20 L of tap water sample in different times during the three month experiments. Preand post-ltration water pH was recorded by a pH meter (Hanna
Instruments HI 98129). APHA (1992) established standard methods
were employed to check the odor, taste and color of the post water
ltration samples. Titration method was used to analyze hardness
and chloride contents of the pre and post water ltration samples
(APHA, 1992).
2.6. Statistical analysis
The statistical analysis of the data was performed using standard errors of the means for each treatment. Subsequently, these
standard errors were utilized to compute 95% condence interval

T15

T30

T45

T60

T75

T90

Time (days)

2.4. Preparation of synthetic microbial contaminated water

Fig. 3. Hydraulic ow rates of the four treatments during the operating treatment
times.

(CI) of the means and plotted in each gure. Therefore, any two
treatment means would be declared signicantly different from
each other when their CI of the means would not overlap, otherwise they would be considered as statistically on par with each
other.
3. Results
The experiments were conducted during January 2010 to March
2010. During these three months, laboratory-based controlled
experiments the temperature ranged from 1 to 22 15 C.
3.1. Hydraulic ow rate over operating time
The overall hydraulic ow rates of all the four modied BSFs
or treatments (1, 2, 3, and 4) showed decreasing hydraulic ow
rates over the operating time, when 20 L were daily poured to each
treatment. Hydraulic ow rate of the control BSF (1) containing
only sand with a uniformity coefcient 3.54.0 mm was compared
with the other three treatments i.e. 2, 3 and 4 CPBB as lter media
with depths of 1 cm, 2.5 cm and 5 cm respectively. The control BSF
(1) showed less decline in ow rate starting from 0.45 L/min at
time T0 to 0.40 L/min at time T90 (days) and gradual reduction in
ow rates were observed during the operating time periods (Fig. 3).
In treatment 4 the abrupt decline in ow rate from 0.43 L/min at
time T0 to 0.36 L/min at treatment time T15 (days) indicated the
possible compaction of the 5 cm CPBB followed by the similar situation for the other two treatments 3 and 2, respectively, containing
comparatively less CPBB depths. After the treatment time T15, the
reduction in ow was again comparatively gradual from 0.36 L/min
at T0 to 0.33 L/min at treatment time T90 (days). The sequences of
the ow rate in each treatment were recorded as: 1 > 2 > 3 > 4.
3.2. E. coli reductions
The E. coli removal efciency of all the four treatments increased
from treatment time T0 to treatment time T30 (days), where the
100% removal of E. coli in treatment 4 (5 cm of CPBB) was recorded
and showed signicant difference in the removal of pathogens as
compared to the other treatments. High removal was observed due
to the high depth of CPBB and where the ow rate was 0.36 L/min
due to the compaction of the lter media. The removal was not
only due to depth of the lter media but also due to the high residence time, head loss buildup and surface charge characteristic
of the lter media. From treatment time T30 to T60 (days) in all
the treatments the E. coli reduction efciency was maintained at

S.A. Baig et al. / Ecological Engineering 37 (2011) 18421848

1845

120

1. Control BSFs
2. 1 cm media depth
3. 2.5 cm media depth
4. 5 cm media depth
Controlled Turbidities

100

Turbidity (NTU)

E. coli reduction in % age

80

60

3
2

20

50

40

40

30

20

10

0
T0

T15

T30

T45

T60

T75

T90

T0

T15

T30

T45

T60

T75

T90

Time (days)

Time (days)

1. control BSFs
2. 1cm media depth
3. 2.5cm media depth
4. 5cm media depth

Fig. 6. Turbidities of the pre- and post-water ltration of the four treatments or
BSFs.

Fig. 4. E. coli removal (% age) in the four treatments or BSFs over 90 days operating
time period.

90 2%, 92 1%, 93 3% and 96 2% of the treatments 1, 2, 3 and 4


respectively (Fig. 4). The decline in the removal capacity was seen
from treatment time T75 (days) and onward, specically of control
BSFs or treatment 1, that reached down to 60% and the treatment
4 maintained signicant results of 90% of E. coli removal even at
treatment time T90 (days). The mean E. coli removal efciencies of
all the four set of BSFs or treatments 1, 2, 3 and 4 were 81 3%,
85 2%, 87 2% and 93 1%, respectively. Hence, the sequence of
E. coli reduction was observed as 4 > 3 > 2 > 1 treatments.
3.3. Total coliforms reductions
Fig. 5 showed the removal of total coliforms for all four sets
of modied BSFs or treatments (14), where a high removal of
the total coliforms was recorded in treatments times T15 to T45
(days) and 100% removal of the total coliforms was found in the said
treatment times in treatment 4. At treatment time T0 (days), the
efciency of the control BSFs or treatment 1 was found higher than
the other three sets of BSFs or treatments (24). The total coliforms
removal efciency of the treatment 4 was again maintained from
treatment time T60 to T90 (days), while other treatments showed a
decline in total coliforms removal efciency (Fig. 5). This was due to
the low controlled intake of mean total coliforms of 60 cfu/100 ml
120

Reduntion of Total Coliforms (%age)

Control Seeded Turbidities (NTU)

60

as compared to 90 cfu/100 ml of E. coli. These variations of E. coli


and total coliforms indicated that fresh sewage water contained
less total coliforms organisms than E. coli. The mean total coliforms
reduction were 88%, 88%, 90% and 95% for the four sets of BSFs or
treatments 1, 2, 3 and 4, respectively. Total coliforms removal efciency was observed according to the following sequence of the
modied BSFs set or treatments: 4 3 > 2 > 1.
3.4. Turbidity removal
Fig. 6 showed the turbidity ranges from 18.2 to 54.25 NTU of
the seeded water, during the 90 days of experiment. Treatment
times T0, T30, T60 and T90 (days) were adjusted to pour lower
turbid water; while treatment times T15, T45 and T75 (days) were
attuned to nourish high turbid water. Turbidity removal efciencies
were found to improve for treatment 1 from 6.30 NTU at treatment
time T0 to 1.45 NTU at treatment time T90. The overall mean post
ltration turbidity was recorded to be 3.5, 3.2, 2.7 and 2.4 NTU of the
modied BSFs set or treatments 1, 2, 3 and 4, respectively. Initial
post ltration turbidity values of 6.30 NTU and 5.7 NTU for the
treatments 1 and 2 showed that some of the nest sand materials
from the sand column washed out during treatment time T0 days.
The turbidity values were almost at equilibrium state for all the
modied BSFs or treatments after the treatment time T30 (days), as
the increased head loss due to mechanical adsorption, attachments
and sedimentation of the particles clogged some of the pores and
hence improved BSFs efciencies. Figs. 1 and 2 indicated that all
four treatments or BSFs were found equally better for the removal
of turbidities.

100

3.5. pH values of drinking water


80

60

40

20

0
T0

T15

1. Control BSFs
2. 1 cm media depth
3. 2.5 cm media depth
4. 5 cm media depth

T30

T45

T60

T75

T90

Time (days)

Fig. 5. Reduction of total coliforms (% age) in the four treatments or BSFs during the
operating time period.

Fig. 7 shows the observation of a slightly increased pH in the


post-ltration during the treatment times from T0 to T90 (days).
The average pH from pre-ltration was 7.77, that was increased to
7.89 in the post- ltration of treatment 1 (control BSFs), resulting
in a 0.12 average pH increased in post-ltration. In the other sets
of BSFs or treatments 2, 3 and 4, the pH increase was comparatively less than that of control BSFs or treatment 1, because these
modied BSFs or treatments contained different depths of CPBB.
Consequently, pH values were found to be slightly lower, i.e. 7.8,
for treatments 24, as compared to pH 7.9 for control (Fig. 1).
3.6. Variations of hardness and chloride
Minor changes were observed in pre- and post-ltration water
quality in terms of hardness and chloride contents. Figs. 8 and 9

1846

S.A. Baig et al. / Ecological Engineering 37 (2011) 18421848


7.92
7.90
7.88

pH

7.86

Pre Filtrate Values


1. controlled BSFs
2. 1 cm media depth
3. 2.5 cm media depth
4. 5 cm media depth
Regression lines

7.84
7.82
7.80

seemed that surface charge characteristics of CPBB caused adhering


of some of the ionic materials present in sand column and from
the intake water sample, resulting in reducing the values to some
extent. The pre-ltration hardness and chloride values in the four
treatments or BSFs varied depending on the seeded water. For the
treatment times (days) T15, T45 and T75 showed high values of
both hardness and chloride could be correlated with seeded turbid
water at the said treatment times.
3.7. Impacts on other physico-chemical parameters

7.78
7.76
7.74
T0

T15

T30

T45

T60

T75

T90

Time (days)
Fig. 7. pH variations of pre and post water ltration during 90 days treatment times.

160
140

The post-ltration water color was visually checked by passing


the sample water to 0.45 m lter membrane. The American Public Health Association in 1992 dened the standard of visual color
determination of true color as the visual color in samples without
visual turbidity or in samples where the turbidity has been removed
by ltration or centrifugation (APHA, 1992). No change in the color
was observed throughout the treatments period. Odor and taste of
the post samples were also assessed by passing the samples to a
number of different users and found their satisfaction without any
change observed in 90 days of treatment period.

Hardness (mg/L)

120

4. Discussion

100
80

The present study investigated the effectiveness of innovative


BSF for the treatment of drinking water containing microbial and
physico-chemical contamination.

60
40

4.1. BSF design modication

20
0
T0

T15

T30

Pre Filtrate Results


1. Control BSFs
2. 1 cm media depth
3. 2.5 cm media depth
4. 5 cm media depth

T45

T60

T75

T90

Time (days)

Fig. 8. Variations of pre and post hardness in four treatments or BSFs during 90 days
experiments.

showed the pre and post ltration hardness and chloride values
during 90 days treatment time periods. Both hardness and chloride
values decreased from pre- to post-ltration and comparatively a
greater decline was found for treatment 4 containing 5 cm CPBB. It

120

Chloride (mg/L)

100

80

60

40

20

0
T0

T15

T30

Pre Filtrate Results


1. Control BSFs
2. 1 cm media depth
3. 2.5 cm media depth
4. 5 cm media depth

T45

T60

T75

T90

Time (days)

Fig. 9. Variations of pre and post chloride in four treatments or BSFs during 90 days
experiments.

Modications in the conventional BSF design were made from


converting saturated ow mechanism into unsaturated ow that
would not rely on any biolm development on the surface as the
water continuously ows from outlet at the bottom. Filtration is the
most common ecological practice treating contaminated waters
in developed countries (Heistad et al., 2006). Even in developing
countries like India, the removal of iron, arsenic and coliform bacteria from water was accomplished by constructed lter systems
(Nemade et al., 2009). The present study employed the use of biological media (pinus bark) as an additional material to assist in
ltration in conventional sand lter. Pinus bark is a very cheap
and locally available biomaterial which was added to assist the
natural ecological phenomenon in BSF. Thus it proved to be an
advancement over the conventional sand lters. The unsaturated
condition in the sand column increased the air water interface
through out the depth in sand column and hence improved
the pathogens removal efciency. Palmateer et al. (1999) purposively examined Manzs BSF design and suggested that airwater
interface within the sand column has an important effect on
the efciency of various toxicants and parasite removals. Thus,
apart from the Manzs BSF designed lter media, locally available
CPBB was used as an additional lter media in the sand column
with varying depths in different BSFs or treatments. The purpose
of the plant derivatives (CPBB) was to improve the long term
efciency of the modied BSF, due to its surface charge characteristics as an adsorbent. Such a modied construction from
locally available materials could be carried out by locally trained
technicians using simple tools and does not require any foreign
experts.
4.2. Microbial reductions
The results indicated a mean 93 2% reduction of E. coli and
mean 95 3% reduction of total coliforms. For the treatment 4 containing 5 cm CPBB depth showed better results, than the other three

S.A. Baig et al. / Ecological Engineering 37 (2011) 18421848

treatments. Treatment 4 containing 5 cm CPBB even accomplished


100% removal of E. coli and total coliforms in treatment times T30
to T45 (days) respectively, and signicant difference was recorded
from the other treatments particularly with the control treatment
1 (Figs. 4 and 5). In comparison, with Stauber et al. (2006), Duke
et al. (2006), Elliot et al. (2006), Ngai et al. (2007), Devi et al. (2008)
showed E. coli reductions from 93 to 99+ % of the typical intermittently operated BSF over time.
The highest E. coli and total coliforms removal at the middle
of the treatment period showed the peak ripening and adsorption
properties of the media and its onward decline in microbial reductions particularly in control treatment projected the capacity of
the said treatment for that particular microbial intake. Adsorption,
physical straining and natural die-off are the principal processes to
remove the microbial populations from the raw water. Adsorption
is the important phenomenon that resulted of attachment of small
sized pathogens to different surface charge substances (Haarhoff
and Cleasby, 1991; Jin et al., 2000). This mechanism includes the
electrostatic attraction between different charge particles in the
sand column. Bacterial cell possess negative surface charges that
attract the positively charged organic matter (Huisman and Wood,
1974). Hence, CPBB is a strong positive surface charge absorbent
used for the removal of negatively charged compounds (crystal
violet dye) from the aqueous solution and its adsorption characteristics were recorded 99.5% at pH 8 experimentally proved
by Ahmad (2009). Large-size pathogens, parasites and cysts are
too big to move through the small ne sand pores, thus physically strained (Jin et al., 2000), and caused reduced hydraulic
ow rates over the operating time. Natural die-off is another process in the BSF lter media due to factors such as old age, stress
and lack of oxygen cause the pathogenic deaths (Elliot et al.,
2006).
Water sources are mostly springs and streams in the northern
part of Pakistan that contain low organic material content, which
could be another reason for bacterial die-off due to less food supply to meet their nutritional needs and also our modied BSF with
an intermittently operating unsaturated mechanism would further
render microbial reductions with an alternatively drying and wetting of the sand column. The overall effects of modication of this
selectively hostile environment may result in the death and inactivation of many pathogens.
4.3. Turbidity removal
All the treatments signicantly removed turbidities from the
treatment time T0 (days), although alternatively high and low controlled turbid water was poured (Fig. 6) to each BSF. At treatment
time T0 (days) control treatment 1, comparatively high turbidity
was observed with 6.3 NTU, that exhibited some of the very ne
sand particles from the sand itself washed out and that was followed by other three treatments 2, 3 and 4. For turbidity removal,
adsorption process is very crucial, as it takes place under physicochemical and molecular forces, which cause bridging between
particles and inuence the particle charge on electro kinetic forces,
are responsible for the attachment between sand grains and the
particles (Gerba et al., 1988). The adsorption on to lter media
changed the surface properties of the lter media. After the treatment time T30 (days), all the treatments were at equilibrium
state and found better removal of turbidities (Fig. 6). The tendency toward lower turbidity reduction with time showed the
compression of the lter media, alteration of the surface properties of the media as a result of physical straining and slowing
the ltration rate. Adsorption of pollutants would be higher with
small sand size consequent to lower hydraulic ow (Nam et al.,
2000). Slightly increased treatment efciency with lower hydraulic

1847

ow was observed with adhesion of ner particles to the sand


surface.

4.4. Variations of other parameters during the operating time


Temperatures remained 115 C during the three month-long
experiments and number of literatures articulated the efciency
of slow sand lter might be reduced by lower the temperature
(Palmateer et al., 1999). BSF was modied to unsaturated ow
mechanism with addition of CPBB depth to improve the efciency in removing the pollutants. Hydraulic ow rates of all four
treatments jumped down after the treatment time T0 (days) and
among them treatment 4 signicantly dropped from 0.43 L/min
to 0.36 L/min during the treatment time T0 to T15 days (Fig. 3).
After treatment time T45 (days), all four treatments showed a
similar gradual decline in ow rates with time. The ow rate of
Manzs designed BSF for daily 20 L water charged was approximately 0.9 L/min (Manz, 2007) and the ow rate of various BSF
models ranged 0.61.0 L/min and too small and too high ow in
the BSF was unacceptable for use (Elliot et al., 2008).
Our designed BSF was almost equal in length and half of the
diameter of Manzs BSF and initial ow rates were 0.45 L/min, fully
compatible with the BSF hydraulic ow acceptable standards. The
ow rates depend on sand depth, quality of raw water and sand
grains distribution. Smaller sand size provides more surface area
and intimate contact time among the constituents of raw water
and improved the pollutants removal efciency (Huisman and
Wood, 1974). The lter media were sieved and washed according to the international standard procedure for BSF developed by
Manz (Manz, 2007). Odor, color and taste of the post-ltrations
were observed to be non objectionable throughout the 90 days
assessment periods. CPBB was meshed in range of 3 to 6 mm size
and was poured into hot water for 24 h to remove all the colored materials that resulted in enhanced adsorption capacity of the
CPBB. However, increased post-ltration pH with time indicated
that sand particles contained some monovalent ions (K+ , Na+ ), that
react with water and hence caused the increased pH of each treatment. Daily 20 L water dissipation kept the BSF sand column wet,
as a consequence the dissolution of the monovalent substances.
Slightly increased pH of the post-ltration samples may probably
due to the dissolution of carbonate natural resources from the sand
and concrete (Elliot, 2006). Comparatively less increased pH was
recorded for treatment 4 as compared to the other three treatments
3, 2 and 1, which might be due to the sorption of some of the ions
by the positive charged CPBB. Gerba et al. (1988) proved that the
high adsorption of E. coli in the sand column was observed at pH 7
than pH 5. However, here normal tap water samples pH was found
above 7.70, which consequently favored more adsorption to CPBB
as proved by Ahmad (2009).
Minor decline in hardness and chloride values was observed
during the control experiments from pre-to post-water ltration
samples in all the treatments 1, 2, 3 and 4, where signicant
declines were assessed in treatment 4 containing 5 cm depth
of CPBB. Such variations showed that some of the charged ions
adhered to the surface of the lter media and greatly correlated
with the normal tap water pH. A signicant difference in treatment 4 was observed over the other treatments particularly control
BSF, that may be due to the adhesion of the charged substances to
the CPBB. But all the physico-chemical parameters were within the
WHO drinking water quality standards.
The current designed household sand lter with the additional
layer of CPBB was termed a modied BSF. In our designed BSF,
pollutants removal mechanisms may involve the following main
processes:

1848

S.A. Baig et al. / Ecological Engineering 37 (2011) 18421848

(1) Physical contraints such as large-size of pathogens, parasites


and cysts prevent moving through the small ne sand pores,
thus are physically constrained (Jin et al., 2000).
(2) Attachment can occur as a result of several processes broadly
described as adsorption that is due to different surface charges
and is an important phenomenon responsible for the adsorption of the small-size pathogens (Haarhoff and Cleasby, 1991;
Jin et al., 2000). This mechanism includes the process of electrostatic attraction between different charge particles. CPBB is
a strong absorbent used for the removal of negatively surface
charged compounds from the aqueous solution and its adsorption characteristics were recorded 99.5% at pH 8 experimentally
proved by Ahmad (2009). The pH values for most of the drinking water sources in northern Pakistan were falling in the range
of 7.58 thus providing a suitable condition for the CPBB to
optimally adsorb the negatively charged bacterial cells.
(3) Natural die-off is another process in the BSF lter media due
to factors of old age, stress and lack of oxygen, causing the
pathogenic deaths (Elliott et al., 2008).
5. Conclusion
The present study concluded that modied BSF with additional
adsorbent in the form of CPBB as decentralized treatment for drinking water is the best option for developing countries of temperate
and semi-temperate regions.
Current BSF design with unsaturated ow mechanism may
improve the water quality by ensuring high airwater interface,
high adsorptions on the CPBB due to surface charge characteristics.
With the highest depth of CPBB (5 cm), BSF accomplished significant removal efciencies of E. coli, total coliforms and turbidity
during the assessment period.
This innovative decentralized treatment technology becomes a
solution in the provision of biologically safe potable water in developing countries of temperate and semi-temperate regions, as it is
easy to construct, operate and maintain by a layman with few hours
training.
Acknowledgements
This research was supported by Save the Children-USA (INGO)
pilot study research grant under Partnership for the Recovery and
Development of Allai Valley (PRDA) WATSAN program. We thank
the staff of COMSATS Abbottabad laboratories and administration for their continuous and enthusiastic support throughout the
research work.
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