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groundwater , ,






clear water
, , water tower , ,


Figure 30 - Treatment of groundwater with double aeration/filtration


increase. The concentration of Fe 2 ', M n 2 ' and NH 4 *

As an example of the change in water quality of

will decrease because of chemical and biological

deep anaerobic groundwater, the St. Jansklooster

transformations; the amount of nitrate, on the other

pumping station is described. The treatment at this

hand, will increase. The concentration of nitrate

pumping station consists of aeration, dry filtration,

increases less than the theoretical calculation.

aeration and submerged filtration. The values of

the different parameters in Table 4 are the average
values over a year.



and gas


Aeration/gas transfer is the process by which water

A s a result of the aeration phases, the amount

is brought in close contact with air to change the

of carbon dioxide will decrease and the pH will

content of the dissolved gases in water. For the

increase. Furthermore, the amount of oxygen will

treatment of groundwater, this means increasing

the oxygen content and decreasing the content

Table 4

Jansklooster pumping station (Overijssel)



Raw water

Clear water

of c a r b o n dioxide, m e t h a n e , hydrogen sulfide

and volatile organic compounds. T h e exchange
of gases that occurs in this process always takes



place simultaneously; aeration/absorption (gas



to water) and gas transfer/desorption (gas from



water). The close contact between air and water




which is necessary for aeration can be obtained







with v a r i o u s s y s t e m s : by d r o p p i n g the water



through the air in fine droplets (spraying), by divid-





ing the water into thin layers (tower aerators, cas-

Mg J *




cades), or by blowing small bubbles of air through





HC0 3 -















the water (deep well aerators, plate aerators, c o m pressor aerators). Technically, these systems can
be realized in a great number of ways.






The choice of a certain system is, to a great extent,

Fe 2 -




determined by the gases that have to be removed.





C H 4 and H 2 S have to be r e m o v e d maximally,







n/100 ml









because the remaining content will affect the postfilters. The removal of C 0 2 has to be controlled
because its level influences the pH and with that the
SI. Table 5 gives a global indication of the effects
of the various aeration systems.

Table 5


- Choice for a specific aeration system

Favorable effect

Potential system

Input of 0 2

All systems

Low removal of CO ?

Compressor aeration, deep

well aeration, cascades

Moderate removal of CO.,


High removal of CO ?

Tower aeration

High removal of CH 4

High cascades, plate aeration,

tower aeration

High removal of H2S

All systems, except compressor aeration

Removal of mtcropollutants Tower aeration

Gases are, to some extent, soluble in water. The
concentration of a gas in the water phase is in
equilibrium linear to the concentration of the gas
in the air phase (equilibrium in conformance with
Henry's Law). This equilibrium concentration is also
called the "saturation concentration." Saturation
means "at a fixed concentration of the gas in the
air phase." This situation is obtained with a continuous replacement of the air phase. For oxygen
in water that is in equilibrium with air, a saturation
concentration of 12 mg/l can be calculated (10C,
2 1 % oxygen, 1 bar).



time (sec)

saturation concentration


Figure 31 - Change in the oxygen content at aeration in

a particular system

For a certain aeration/gas transfer system, the

gas transfer coefficient can be assumed to be
Integration of this formula gives:
( C s ~ C l ) _ e - k , .

The equilibrium isn't achieved at once with intensive contact between water and air. Rather, the
gas exchange takes place at a rate which is linear
to the driving force. This driving force is the difference between the actual concentration and the
equilibrium concentration:
= k 2 -(c,-c,)
in which:
c, = concentration of a gas in water
at time t
cs = equilibrium concentration of that
gas in water
k, = gas transfer coefficient


in which:
c0 = concentration of a gas in water
at time t = 0

The profile of the oxygen concentration in an aeration device is shown in Figure 31. The oxygen
content initially rises quickly and then increases
less because of the reduced driving force.
The efficiency of aeration can be defined as the
achieved decrease in the driving force divided by
the possible decrease in the driving force:

(g/m 3 )

The gas transfer coefficient depends on the magnitude of the contact surface between water and air
(greater surface area, higher k2), and on the rate
at which this surface is replaced (greater replacement, higher k ).




= 1-e~

in which:
K = efficiency of gas transfer
cm = concentration of the gas before
cM= concentration of the gas after





When aerating sequentially the efficiency will be

equal per step, because the k2t-value of the same
device is equal. This occurs in aeration with cascades, where the water makes the same falling
motion at each step.
The efficiency of the aeration can be increased
by increasing the k2t-value of the device (longer
residence time, faster renewal of contact surface,
increase of the turbulence in the water phase).
The driving force can also be increased, by
increasing the saturation concentration. For aeration this can be done by applying a higher operating pressure (saturation tank, deep well aeration)
or by applying pure oxygen instead of air.
Gas transfer can also be executed with a lower
pressure (vacuum gas transfer).
An aeration device has different k2t-values for different gases.
Mass balance
The amount of air needed for the addition of oxygen can be easily calculated. The volume of 1 mol
air is 22.4 liters at 1 bar, so 1 liter of air with 21 %
oxygen is (0.21-32 / 22.4 =) 0.3 g 0 2 . To get 10 mg
0 2 in 1 liter of water, theoretically, only (10 / 0.3 /
1,000=) 0.033 I air is needed.
The transfer of a gas can be hindered by exhaustion or the accumulation of gas in the air phase.
Ventilating the air can limit this.
According to the mass balance, the gas mass
that is removed from the water is equal to the gas
mass that is transported (carried away) in the air.
Therefore, the air-water (volume) ratio (per time
unit) is of importance:

a limitation in the removal of CO.,, H,S or CH,


a minimum RQ of 5 is necessary. When a high

level of removal is desired, a higher RQ-value is
obviously needed. This is, for example, the case
when removing toxic, volatile compounds, like
chloroform and trihalomethanes, which can occur
in groundwater because of ground pollution.
In the case of bubble aeration the RQ-value is typically smaller than 1. In the case of tower aerators,
and plate aerators RQ-values of 10 and higher are
applied. The differences in RQ-values cause, to a
great extent, the differences in efficiency of these
systems for specific gases.
By spraying the water against a solid body or
against another spray of water, the water is distributed over a large surface.
Over the course of time, a great number of sprayers
and spray methods have been developed.
For the treatment of groundwater, the systems can
be divided into:

upwards or downwards spraying

spraying in a separate room or above a sand

With this, four combinations can be made, which

are all being used (Figures 32 and 33).
When an intensive aeration/gas transfer is necessary, double spraying is employed, for example
with a spraying room directly above a sand filter.
The spraying floor functions as a reservoir for the

RQ = ^ in which:
RQ = air-water ratio
= air (gas) flow
= water flow


For an increase in the oxygen content, an RQ of

0.5 is sufficient. This is (0.5 / 0.033 =) 15 times
more than the amount stated above. To prevent


Figure 32 - Downward spraying with plate nozzles (Dresden nozzles) over a sand filter at Schiermonnikoog pumping station (Friesland)



Figure 33 - Upward spraying with Amsterdam nozzles

in a separate room

Figure 34 - Cascade aeration with distribution from many

jets at Heel pumping station (Limburg)

first aeration and also as a dividing system for the

avoid contamination of the microbiologically reli-

second aeration.

able groundwater by contaminants in the atmos-

Most sprayers have a capacity of 1 - 3 m 3 /h per

phere (aerosols, etc.).

sprayer, if 2 - 4 sprayers are placed per m 2 . With

this the surface load of spraying ( 2 - 1 2 m/h) is

Cascade or waterfall aeration

approximately equal to the filtration rate of the post-

In cascade or waterfall aeration the water is divided

filters. Sprayers have a very limited flow range. In

into a thin layer by letting it fall over a sharp edge.

the case of low flows, there isn't a good distribution

In past years many different types of cascades

of the water and a poor aeration results. Therefore,

have been developed. In the most efficient types of

to deal with large fluctuations in capacity one can

construction, the water layer is divided into various

close off a number of sprayers. The energy used

spouts that fall into a water trough. During this, air

for spraying is limited (0.5 - 2 mwc to provide pres-

bubbles are forced into the water a n d , because of

sure drop in sprayers and 1 - 2 m as fall height, so

the turbulence, these separate into many small air

1 . 5 - 4 m in total).

bubbles (Figures 34 and 35).

Spraying is efficient for the addition of oxygen and

the removal of C H 4 (for both 80 - 90%), but less

The water trough has a minimum depth of 6 6 % of

efficient for the removal of CO., (40 - 50%).

the fall height to obtain sufficient contact time. The

rate of the water depends on the fall height:

T h e addition of oxygen results, almost directly,

in the oxidation of dissolved iron. Therefore, on
the walls and pipes of the spraying systems, iron
deposits can be found. This pollution can be limited by using downward spraying directly above
the filter. Pollution will always occur in the dividing
system and in the sprayers, which will affect a good
distribution during spraying. Spray systems will
have to be cleaned a few times per year. An open
division floor is attractive because of the accessibility of the parts that have to be cleaned.

In the case of dry filtration, spraying is always used

to distribute the water evenly over the filter bed.
The spraying room has to be ventilated with a flow
that results from the desired RQ-value for the aeration/gas transfer. This air is filtered in advance to

Figure 35 - Principle of the formation of air bubbles in

cascade aeration




' = V2-g-h
in which:
v = fall rate
h = fall height
g = gravity acceleration

(9.81 m/s2)

With a height between 0.5 and 1.0, the fall rate

is between 3 and 4.5 m/s. With a spout thickness
of 1 cm and a fall rate of 3 m/s, the capacity of
a cascade is (0.01 3 3,600 =) 108 m3/h per m
overflow length. The efficiency of the addition of
0 2 and the removal of CH,, is more or less linear to
the fall height (approximately 50 - 60% per m fall
height). Unfortunately, C0 2 is very poorly removed
in a cascade (approximately 10 - 20% per step,
regardless of the height).
In practice a maximum fall height of 1 meter per
step is chosen. The efficiency barely increases
above this height. A higher efficiency can be
obtained by using more steps. For a very thorough
removal of CH4 cascades with 4 - 5 steps and a
total fall height of 4 - 5 m are used.
Many small steps are used if the largest possible
CO, removal is desired.

The efficiency of a cascade depends little on the

hydraulic load (up to 200 m3/h per m). Therefore,
cascades are a very robust way of aerating, independent of fluctuation in the production capacity
and barely sensitive to deposits of iron on the
Bubble aeration
Bubble aeration for groundwater treatment occurs
in three types of facilities:
- compressor aeration
- deep well aeration
- plate aeration
Bubble aeration has the advantage that, it can be
easily incorporated into the treatment scheme.
Namely, in the case of bubble aeration, the necessary energy isn't extracted from the water phase
(decrease of potential energy), but given to the
air phase. This makes the addition of energy and,
therefore, the gas transfer much more flexible than
the other aeration systems.
Besides, compressor or deep well aerators are
used when the removal of CO, is undesirable.
Compressor aeration
In the case of compressor aeration, air is directly
injected into a water pipe through a compressor.

Calculation for cascade aeration

In the first step of a cascade aerator the oxygen content increases from 0 to 4 mg/l. Calculate the oxygen content after the subsequent steps.
With a saturation concentration cs of 12 mg/l, the oxygen efficiency of a single step of a cascade can
be calculated as follows
( 4 - 0 ) / ( 1 2 - 0 ) = 0.33
Thus, per step k21 = - ln(1 - 0.33) = 0.40
With a residence time of 5 seconds per step is
After the second step the oxygen content is
After the third step the oxygen content is
After the fourth step the oxygen content is

k2 = 0.40 / 5 = 0.08 s"

(4 + 0.33 (12 - 4 ) = 4 + 2.6 =) 6.6 mg/l
(6.6 + 0.33 (12 - 66) = 6.6 + 1.8 =) 8.4 mg/l
(8.4 + 0.33 (12 - 8.4) = 8.4 + 1.2 =) 9.6 mg/l

The efficiency per step remains at 33%, but the absolute increase in the oxygen content decreases
more and more (from 4 mg/l per step to 1.2 mg/l per step).




Figure 36 - Venturi aeration, a version of compressor

By a narrowing of the pipe, a higher turbulence is
obtained in the water, leading to small air bubbles
and good mixing.
For a fast gas transfer it is preferable to inject air
at a place where the water has a high pressure,
but, when looking at the energy consumption of
the gas phase, this is undesirable.
With a pressure of 3 mwc in the water pipe and an
RQ of 0 . 1 , the energy consumption of the compressor aeration is (0.1 - 3 =) 0.3 mwc. For the mixing,
another 0.5 mwc is needed.
With this system, oxygen can be added, but gas
removal almost never occurs.

Compressor aeration is mostly used in combina-

A supply raw water

tion with pressure filtration.

C outlet for aerated water

B air supply

Figure 37 - Deep well aerator

Venturi aeration is a variant of compressor aeration
and was often applied in the past (Figure 36). The

is necessary to carry along the large air bubbles.

air is entrained by a vacuum in the venturi.

Furthermore, the water in the vertical tube has a

Of course this way of aerating is very sensitive

smaller specific gravity due to the air bubbles and

to variations in flow, because the vacuum varies

therefore, also a pressure difference will have to

with the square root of the water rate in the throat

be realized to obtain a net gradient.

of the venturi.
Oxygen c a n be added to this system, but gas
Deep well aeration

removal rarely occurs. F r o m a d e e p w e l l over-

For deep well aeration, air is brought into a vertical

saturation of gases can occur and, in the post-sand

tube, where the mixture flows down to a depth of

filters, gas transfer can occur. This may result in

5 to 20 m (Figure 37). Here, the water flows out of

faster clogging of the filters.

the tube into a larger shaft. Because of the high

hydrostatic pressure, a very high transfer of oxygen

Plate aeration

is achieved, within an exceptionally small space.

With plate aeration, a large amount of air (RQ

Furthermore, the energy consumption is very low.

of 30 - 60) is blown through a thin layer of water

The air is injected almost under atmospheric pres-

(ca. 25 - 30 cm). The air is injected through many

sure, which consumes little energy. The energy

small holes (ca. 1 mm) in the bottom (Figures 38

consumption of deep well aeration is mainly the

and 39). The large amount of air causes strong

hydraulic resistance of the vertical tube. This is not

turbulence and a good gas transfer, despite the

completely negligible because a rate of 2 - 3 m/s

short residence time ( 1 0 - 2 0 s).





Figure 38 - Principle of plate aeration

The energy consumption in the water phase is

very low (slow flow in an open trough), but in the
air phase the energy consumption is very high.
With an RQ of 50 and a water height of 0.30 m, the
energy consumption is (500.30 =) 15 mwc.
With this system a very good methane removal is
possible (90 - 95%) and considerable C0 2 removal
(60 - 70%). This system is definitely used if extra
methane removal is necessary afterwards, and
if there is no hydraulic gradient available. The
system is very sensitive to fouling, meaning that
the small holes can clog due to iron and calcium
deposits. Therefore, cleaning of the bottom plates
is necessary several times a year. To limit the
amount of outside air that has to be filtered, recirculation of used air is warranted.
Tower aeration
In the case of tower aeration, water is distributed
over a column with packing, through which air is
blown (Figures 40 and 41).
Tower aeration is easily configured for the removal
of gases by:
- choice of bed height (1 - 5 m)
- choice of packing material (course, fine, open,


A influent
B packing
C air supply
D effluent
E air outlet

Figure 40 - Principle of tower aeration

choice of air direction (co-current, counter-current)

choice of RQ(1 -100)

Due to such design choices, a very good removal

of gases is possible. Tower aeration is not very
sensitive to variations in hydraulic load (50 -150
m/h). It is, however, sensitive to fouling, which
makes regular replacement or cleaning of the
packing material necessary if the water contains
iron. In some cases this cleaning is performed by
backwashing the aeration tower.
Tower aeration is also sometimes realized in a
pressure vessel.
With a vacuum, gases can be removed without
gases being added to the water (vacuum gas
With high pressure, over-saturation can occur. This
is used in saturation for flotation.

Figure 39 - Plate aeration at Oldeholdpade

station (Friesland)



Filtration of groundwater is a process similar to the
filtration of surface water. Both consist of a filter
(sand) bed of 1 - 2 m through which water flows.
The filter is backwashed (almost) daily, cleaned