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Doctoral thesis2013Open access

Bark and charcoal filters for greywater treatment : pollutant removal and recycling opportunities

Dalahmeh, Sahar Saleim Saleh


Water scarcity, inappropriate sanitation and wastewater pollution are critically important global issues. Greywater is a sustainable water source for recycling, so this thesis examined simple, robust, low-cost alternatives for on-site treatment of greywater to irrigation water quality. Laboratory-scale pine bark, activated charcoal and sand filters were evaluated as regards their pollutant removal and interactions between medium properties, greywater, microbial activity and bacterial community structure. The effects of hydraulic and organic loading rates (HLR and OLR) were described by general regression models (GRM). The quality of the treated greywater was evaluated against Jordanian standards for irrigation water. A series of experiments examined treatment of artificial greywater in terms of lowering biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5), chemical oxygen demand (COD), phosphorus (Tot-P), nitrogen (Tot-N) and pathogen indicators (total thermotolerant coliforms) and tracer microorganisms (enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) and bacteriophage PhiX). Following greywater loading, all filter materials developed biofilms with high bacterial diversity and richness. The driving force shaping bacterial communities in bark material was its organic composition and low pH, while the communities in the charcoal and sand filters were more influenced by the greywater. The GRM indicated that the performance of all filters was influenced by the HLR and OLR of the present and previous runs. The organic matter content and surface and hydraulic properties of the bark filters resulted in high BOD5 removal rates (94-99%), even at increased HLR and OLR, but accompanied by release of dissolved organic substances originating from the bark itself. High nitrification occurred in the bark filters in all loading regimes tested, but with low Tot-N removal. The bark filters demonstrated 1-3 log10 removal of microorganisms, but bark organic nature made its filters more vulnerable to biodegradation and disintegration. The charcoal had large specific surface area, which provided the capacity for intermediate-high removal of BOD5 (83-97%), Tot-N (50-98%) and Tot-P (64-98%), but removal of microorganisms was poor. The sand filters demonstrated low BOD5 removal (67-91%) and high nitrification, but low nitrogen removal. Greywater treatment by bark and charcoal filters reduced their organics content to acceptable irrigation levels. Nitrogen and microorganisms must be further reduced to meet Jordanian standards on treated wastewater for irrigation.


bacterial diversity; biofilm; BOD5; COD; hydraulic loading; irrigation; nitrogen; organic loading; organic matter; respiration

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2013, number: 2013:51ISBN: 978-91-576-7841-6, eISBN: 978-91-576-7841-6
Publisher: Department of Energy and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Management
    Water Treatment

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