Carbon Columns: Success at Last

by John C. Seeley, (M.ASCE), Managing Partner (retired); McNamee, Porter & Seeley, Ann Arbor, Mich.,
Shin Jon Kang, (M.ASCE), Manager; Advanced Technology Dept., McNamee, Porter & Seeley, Ann Arbor, Mich.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1985, Vol. 55, Issue 2, Pg. 44-46

Document Type: Feature article


The first large scale application of carbon columns for municipal wastewater treatment has been operating for two years. The columns were designed as part of a program to upgrade an out of date treatment plant to secondary treatment. Design studies showed that a combined physical-chemical precipitation, sand filtration and adsorption by granular activated carbon offered several advantages over conventional biological treatment. The designers of the North Tonawanda, N.Y. plant avoided the serious mistakes of past systems by using several design innovations. In previous projects, carbon transfer in dry form resulted in clogged equipment and high levels of carbon loss due to abrasion. The spent carbon is transferred in slurry form and then the lines are flushed to cut down abrasion. And careful flushing of the lines after the carbon transfer avoids plugging. The carbon columns in the plant were designed to operate upward to eliminate plugging and provide better contact with the carbon. Water is introduced at the bottom of the columns. As a result of these and other innovations, the effluent has consistently met discharge permit requirements for conventional and organic pollutants as well as phosphorous.

Subject Headings: Carbon fibers | Columns | Municipal wastewater | Biological processes | Innovation | Erosion | Wastewater treatment | Precipitation

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