DIY Water Treatment Train

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Introduction: DIY Water Treatment Train

This water treatment train combines a few #DIYBMP devices for filtration or adsorption in a number of different water treatment applications:

- stormwater treatment

- pond filtration

- large aquarium filtration

- hydroponics & aquaponics

- aquaculture

- rainwater harvesting

- natural swimming pool


This Instructable details how to build a vortex clarifier, filter barrel, and an active media barrel.

Depending on your application and contaminants of concern, each piece could stand alone, be combined with another piece, or included in the full treatment train detailed here.

I work professionally in the water treatment industry and maintain some water-centric hobbies. Knowing that I tinker in small-scale, inexpensive versions of industrial equipment, friends have asked how they might build their own systems for their hobbies or businesses - for rainwater harvesting, aquaponics, aquaculture, aquariums, and even industrial stormwater treatment. My Instructables about DIY aquatics equipment are meant to share some of the hacks, science, and builds more broadly with others.

Step 1: Build the Vortex Clarifier

This is a hydrodynamic separator for pre-treatment in a number of different water treatment applications.


Target Contaminants - Total Suspended Solids

Estimated Flow- 25 gallons per minute

Action - Separates bulk solids that sink or float; approximately 2 minutes retention to settle bulk solids

Project Estimate - $45

Step 1: Gather Parts

(1) 55 gal drum from local reclaim or Craigslist

(2) Banjo 1.5" bulkhead from Amazon.com

Parts from Home Depot

(1) 1.5" x 2" PVC adapter (MPT x slip)

(1) 2" PVC stub (3")

(1) 2" PVC drop tube (28")

(2) 2" PVC Elbow 90

(1) 1.5" PVC Tee

(1) 1.5" PVC stub (6")

(1) 1.5" PVC adapter (MPT x slip)


Step 2: Prep Barrel

Drill holes for the fill tube and skim drain bulkheads, approximately 3" from top of inverted barrel.

Cut hole on top of barrel to receive stormwater from site downspout, diverter, or pump and to allow access for internal plumbing.

Step 3: Install Bulkhead Fittings

Install bulkheads for fill tube and skim drain.

Step 4: Install Internal Plumbing

Install internal adapters into bulkhead fittings.

Install fill tube and skim drain assemblies.

Step 5: Install External Plumbing

Install fill plumbing as desired from source.

Install drain plumbing as desired to reach next treatment step or discharge location.

Depending on the layout and application, elevating the vortex clarifier will enable gravity flow. Three concrete blocks makes a safe and stable platform up to 3 layers tall.

Step 2: Build the Filter Barrel

This is a slow sand filter for filtration in a number of different water treatment applications.

Target Contaminants- Total Suspended Solids

Estimated Flow - 25 gallons per minute

Action - Filters suspended solids

Project Estimate - $130


Step 1: Gather Parts

(1) 55 gal drum from local reclaim or Craigslist

(1) Banjo 2" bulkhead from Amazon.com

Parts from Home Depot

(2) 2" PVC adapter (MPT x slip)

(1) 2" PVC perforated underdrain (14") - pre-drill 1/4" holes or cut slits using saw

(1) 2" PVC Cap

(1) 2" PVC riser (34")

(2) 2" PVC stub (3")

(1) 2" PVC stub (6")

(1) 2" PVC Tee

(2) 2" PVC Elbow 90

(1) 2" PVC valve

(4) 2’ x 2’ section weed barrier fabric (separators between the media layers)


Step 2: Prep Barrel

Drill hole for the underdrain bulkhead, approximately 3" from bottom of inverted barrel.

Cut hole on top of barrel to receive stormwater from site downspout, diverter, or pump and to allow access for internal plumbing.


Step 3: Install Internal Plumbing

Install bulkhead for underdrain.

Connect internal adapter into bulkhead fitting. Install underdrain assembly.


Step 4: Install Discharge Plumbing

Install fill plumbing as desired from source.

Install drain plumbing as desired to reach next treatment step or discharge location.

Depending on the layout and application, elevating the filter will enable gravity flow. Three concrete blocks makes a safe and stable platform up to 3 layers tall.


Step 5: Install Media Bed

Install media, separating each type with a section of weed barrier fabric.

(4 bags) Drain Rock for drainage support (10" layer)

(4 bags) Pea Gravel for solids separation down to 300 microns (2 x 5" layers)

(6 bags) Pool Filter Sand for solids separation to 30 microns (15" layer) - best pricing at your local pool supply

Step 3: Make the Active Media Barrel

This is a modified slow sand filter for filtration and active adsorption of heavy metals and nutrients.


Target Contaminants - Total Suspended Solids

Heavy Metals (Zn, Cu, Al, Fe)

Nutrients (COD, BOD, Ammonia)

Estimated Flow - 25 gallons per minute

Action - Actively adsorbs heavy metals and nutrients

Project Estimate - $240


Step 1: Gather Parts

(1) 55 gal drum from local reclaim or Craigslist

(1) Banjo 2" bulkhead from Amazon.com

Parts from Home Depot

(2) 2" PVC adapter (MPT x slip)

(1) 2" PVC perforated underdrain (14") - pre-drill 1/4" holes or cut slits using saw

(1) 2" PVC Cap

(4) 2’ x 2’ section weed barrier fabric (separators between the media layers)


Step 2: Prep Barrel

Drill hole for the underdrain bulkhead, approximately 3" from bottom of inverted barrel.

Cut hole on top of barrel to receive stormwater from site downspout, diverter, or pump and to allow access for internal plumbing.


Step 3: Install Internal Plumbing

Install bulkhead for underdrain.

Connect internal adapter into bulkhead fitting.

Install underdrain assembly.


Step 4: Install Discharge Plumbing

Install fill plumbing as desired from source.

Install drain plumbing as desired to reach next treatment step or discharge location.

Depending on the layout and application, elevating the filter will enable gravity flow. Three concrete blocks makes a safe and stable platform up to 3 layers tall.


Step 5: Install Media Bed

Install media, separating each type with a section of weed barrier fabric.

(4 bags) Drain Rock for drainage support (10" layer)

(2 bags) Pea Gravel for solids separation down to 300 microns (5" layer)

(2 bags) Pool Filter Sand for solids separation to 30 microns (5" layer) - best pricing at your local pool supply

(10 bags) Active media - Zeolite for adsorption of metals & nutrients (25" layer) - may be locally available as "horse stall deodorizer" at farm or feed store

Step 4: Assemble the Treatment Train

Depending on your application and contaminants of concern, each piece could stand alone, be combined with another piece, or included in the full treatment train detailed here.

Step 5: ...or Assemble a Hybrid Treatment Train

Note that for some applications, combining the large and small DIYBMPs may work well for isolating active media into a separate container for easier change-out or recharge. See the "Hybrid Treatment Train" examples attached to this step.

Check out the DIY Water Treatment Tower for details on constructing the larger DIYBMPs.

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    30 Comments

    0
    NanaW
    NanaW

    5 years ago

    Can this be made to filter whole house water?

    0
    Phil_S
    Phil_S

    Reply 5 years ago

    What do you mean by whole house water?

    If you mean the potable water supplied by the water utility, then obviously not. For starters, the utility water is going to be at pressure (4 bar where I live) and this is not a pressure vessel - then for effective filtration (shouldn't really be necessary if you are talking about particles), you need to filter to micron levels.

    If you have utility water that would benefit from this sort of treatment, you have a supply problem.

    You could use it for utlity water, but not at pressure (a thin-walled plastic drum would pop sooner or later), then you have the problem of repressurising.

    Sand filters for potable water filtration are huge pressure vessels (I used to work with them). I use a whole house potable water filter about 30-cm high, 10-cm diameter which takes the pressure and the activated carbon sediment filter takes out grit etc., plus organics, but leaves the vital calcium minerals.

    If you are off-mains and use a borehole or surface water, it might work for non-potable use i.e. washing etc., but you still need to get the filtered water up to a usable pressure.

    It all depends on what you are using the water for in the end.

    0
    hazelmist50
    hazelmist50

    Reply 2 months ago

    I also am interested in using this type of system for a "whole house filtration system". Then finishing it with a iSpring ED2000 Whole House Electronic Descaler Water Conditioner, and iSpring WSP100GR Reusable Spin Down Sediment Water Filter (100 Micron w/Scraper & 360°Head) . Can you be more specific about what your "I use a whole house potable water filter about 30-cm high, 10-cm diameter which takes the pressure and the activated carbon sediment filter takes out grit etc., plus organics, but leaves the vital calcium minerals" system is? I also am in the PNW but have a spring that I pump out of. Currently there is NO filtration on it what so ever, I just bought it that way, (I thought it had a filter, but it turns out that it was empty/fake). BTY, it has plugged ALL the new faucets inside to where the water pressure (inside house) is less then half after installation. Wish i knew this before installing everything new. I am learning. I am also trying to figure out how to clean out shower heads, faucets. etc. from this clog, (the screens are all off, and still no difference), any ideas? And, if I used stainless steel drums it should last?
    I sure hope you stil read this post.

    0
    pgs070947
    pgs070947

    Reply 2 months ago

    You unfortunately found out the hard way that turning spring water into something you can safely use for domestic water supply is far from easy.
    Firstly, I think you are putting your health at risk. If you have that much sediment in your plumbing system to cause blockages, then that sediment can carry bacteria etc. or provide a breeding ground.
    You need to get the raw water checked to see if it is even suitable to use - you know nothing about it's chemistry etc. until then.
    The clarity or turbidity of the raw water is a key parameter, the clearer the better.
    High incoming solids will wreck filters and everything else.
    I'm afraid I don't even know what or where PNW is, so can't really comment.
    I'm in the UK and use chalk borehole water from the water utility. Now and again, someone digs up the road and mud gets in the supply system. BAD practice.
    I use a standard filter like this BWT High Capacity Water Filter Kit | Water Filters | Screwfix.com.
    It takes a sediment filter or an activated carbon filter, both are replaced annually.
    There are sintered filters that can be cleaned in situ by back-flushing. I devised a system that used compressed air. Many commercial (utility) systems use compressed air to clean sand filters.
    As for your clogged pipes and appliances, all you can do is clean them individually.
    If the sediment has calcified (hard calcium rich water), then acid will be needed.
    For pipework, if back-flushing doesn't work, plumbers sometimes use a hammer drill with a rubber hammer bit to vibrate the pipes while back-flushing.
    If you look at the one star reviews of the system in your link, you will see that most relate to filter blockages.
    For starters, I would look at your pumping system to make sure that it isn't stirring up muck in the first place. Relocating or siting it in a submerged drum might help.
    Good luck

    0
    hazelmist50
    hazelmist50

    Reply 2 months ago

    Wow, thanks for replying so quickly! PNW, is the Pacific North West, (more specifically, Oregon). I must of miss-read that you had said you were from here as well, I guess it was one of your commenters. I normally can spot someone from there, as the wording is (usually) a dead give a way, but, not this time, until now. I looked up what "chalk borehole water" is and can't define it. I assume it is the name of the h20 from your area.
    The research on the whole house systems is from here: 13 Best Whole House Water Filters - (Reviews & Guide 2020) (waterfiltermag.com), that's were my recent info came from. I got some help (when my pump burnt out recently) and he put in a (new to me, but used) pump on the ground, (my old one was in the spring). He placed the foot valve at the bottom of the spring, and that's where the issues mainly began, I think.
    I have temporary pulled it up and it is off the bottom of the spring, not touching the dirt. The spring has been used since the 1950s, just not completely developed, and it comes straight up out of the ground. I completely understand about the testing, and have considered the barrel idea as well. I have also considered driving a fence post straight into the spring (the spring ground is clay) and attaching the foot valve to that, lifting it off the ground.
    My other consideration was using pneumatic air, to try and clean out the inside house issues as well. I just replaced all the plumbing with pex, and all of the non fauceted outlets, hose out side etc. work fine. I recently found out that the cabin was built (rough sawn cedar) in the 1930s, funny, that the county lists it as mid 1950s. I only know because I recently met a person, who lived here in the 1930s for about 10 years.
    I am limited with resources and strength (mature female), and have had a lot of other interesting learning curves, (some quite unexpected), that keep me more than busy, fixing and repairing many things here. It was the only place I could afford to buy, and yet quite an adventure.
    I still plan of using your info for a three barrel filtration system for my house as well, in the near future.
    Thank you for your wealth of information and your promptness!

    0
    Phil_S
    Phil_S

    Reply 2 months ago

    My pleasure.
    It looks as though I used another Instructables profile to answer you.
    Yes, funny enough, there is a Dutch company called PNW who deal with water supply.
    Your faucets are taps here.
    Where I live, the geology is solid chalk. The utility just digs or bores a well or borehole deep enough, maybe 200 feet until they reach the water table or saturated chalk. They then dig horizontally like a coal mine to provide more collection capacity - these are called addits.
    They drop a submersible pump into the water and that's it. The water is naturally crystal clear, usually free of microorganisms, but chlorine is added as a precaution. It goes straight into distribution. Unfortunately of late, contaminants like nitrates have got into the water from over-pumping and fertilizer application, so these have to be removed. You could say that the water is polluted.
    You mention a foot valve. Is your pump on the surface or is it submerged in the water? Almost certainly there will be sediment and the pump action could be pulling in more when it starts up.
    Do you use the pump to pressurise your system or do you have tank in the roof?
    Take care with pump driven systems not to exceed the pipework allowable pressures.
    If you can clean up the raw water so as to reduce the sediment getting in, the rest of the system will have a chance of working.
    For information, the activated carbon and sediment filters I use, have next to no effect on the flow or pressure at any of the outlets. The incoming pressure is about 4-bar or 56 psi..
    Another thing I would try, I do it here, is to collect as much rainwater as possible, store it in a roof tank using a pump, and that gets used for the toilets, clothes washing and personal washing. It is sterilized, free, and takes a big load off the utility supply.
    Good luck with your project, but do take care with the health stuff. I would use bottled water until I had a laboratory potable water analysis, particularly if you are off grid for waste water as well.

    0
    hazelmist50
    hazelmist50

    Reply 2 months ago

    Oh, the pump is above ground

    0
    pgs070947
    pgs070947

    Reply 2 months ago

    A foot valve needs to work properly so that water does not fall back down the feed pipe. They normally have a strainer fitted as well.
    A submersible pump is a better solution as it does not need priming.
    Both types of pump need some protection to make sure they don't run dry.

    0
    hazelmist50
    hazelmist50

    Reply 2 months ago

    Ok, thanks again!

    0
    atomicjoe23
    atomicjoe23

    3 years ago

    Could you explain how the vortex clarifier works. . .in specifics?


    I.e., what generates the vortex?

    0
    Phil_S
    Phil_S

    Reply 2 months ago

    Simple.
    The flow comes into a cone shaped vessel parallel to the surface and creates a rotating column of liquid, like a waterspout, whirlwind or Dyson vacuum cleaner.
    The cone shape forces the solids to the bottom for removal.

    0
    JenniferS17
    JenniferS17

    10 months ago

    I have what may seem like a silly question, but can I mod so that the barrels sit on their sides in a frame, stacked vertically? I know it should be the same volume of material in the barrel, but how important is placement of the interior plumbing? Can I move some stuff to the side without messing it up?

    0
    KROKKENOSTER
    KROKKENOSTER

    5 years ago

    I think that this is a MUST if you have room for it.. Here in South Africa it is a must

    0
    Chipper Bert
    Chipper Bert

    Reply 5 years ago

    Too right Boet... (Sussie?) but check out your municipality's bye-laws. There are some weird things in some areas as regards grey and even rain water harvesting...

    But hey, in the drought we're in (and even thereafter) "it's going to be easier to ask forgiveness than get permission"

    0
    WaterWorksLife
    WaterWorksLife

    Reply 5 years ago

    Slow sand filtration is used around the world in small to large scale installations. For drinking water applications, it's only a step in the whole process. A final sterilization step is needed to kill off biota that cause waterborne illness.

    1
    Chipper Bert
    Chipper Bert

    5 years ago

    Not to nit-pick, but at 25gph on the barrel being used, the surface overflow rate (SOR = flow÷surface area of filter) will be about 0,16gpm/sf, which is way out of range for Slow Sand Filters, which operate in a very different way (in a range between 0.05 and 0.1 gpm/sf - see reference below) and provide advantages beyond those of Rapid Sand Filters, which is what this actually is.

    http://iaspub.epa.gov/tdb/pages/treatment/treatmentOverview.do?treatmentProcessId=-1306063973

    SSF's were used as far back as the mid 1400's and have been credited with being the single biggest health improvement factor in the European cities which used them (my post graduate studies in water treatment happened a long long time ago so I forget the reference :-! ). Very probably, how they provided their microbiological benefits was not realised at the time, but they worked wonders...

    One of their biggest problems is the space SSF's need to be effective. As can be calculated from the SOR's above, they would need about 30 x the surface area - and another 30 x for use when the time came for cleaning the first set. Not good for a backyard setup...

    There are all sorts of other problems with SSF's and I don't want to set myself up as any sort of expert (besides being long-windedly off-topic) but I'm a bit passionate about water supply and I do think terminology is important. I would not want someone expecting the benefits of SSF's as set out in the EPA reference to install this system and be disappointed. As someone else has commented, a post filtration disinfection system should be added if you are going to put the water in your Scotch...

    0
    KieranS6
    KieranS6

    5 years ago

    very cool!

    0
    maniactrucker
    maniactrucker

    5 years ago

    Do you have to change out filtering meduim, if so, how often?

    0
    WaterWorksLife
    WaterWorksLife

    Reply 5 years ago

    The filter media cleaning, replacement, or recharge (for zeolite) would depend on the quality of the water going in and the water quality goal for the discharge.

    0
    Phil_S
    Phil_S

    5 years ago

    Just as an add-on, in the UK, when stricter waste water treatment regulations came in during the 1990's, companies fell over themselves to devise new systems to clean up effluents. Sand filters were very popular and were automated by blowing compressed air through to dislodge build up of solids - some worked, some didn't. If you are treating water with high levels of solids, flocculants like alum are added, but some of the most innovative methods used "blown" or aerated clay granules to harbour the aerobic bacteria and micro-organisms that digested the organics and compressed air kept the whole mix in suspension. My system for self-cleaning filters also used compressed air as the cleaning agent and sintered plastics to do the filtration. The target was for two weeks use before a manual clean - they actually worked for months and years.