The application of membrane filtration in the treatment of spent filter backwash water (SFBW) permits efficient removal of microorganisms, suspended particles and organic substances, depending on the used membrane molecular weight cut-off. However, flux decline, due to deposits and adsorption of substances (salts, colloids, organics, particles, microorganisms, etc.) tends to limit the use of membranes.
Characterization of SFBW samples from different waterworks showed that three major factors contribute to the SFBW properties: the raw water itself, the time interval of sand filter operation and additional treatment steps. The main differences between SFBW samples were found principally in DOC, TOC and turbidity. Experiments with submerged membranes (lab- and pilot- scale modules) showed that there was a clear correlation between DOC concentration of the feed and the flux decline: when the DOC-concentration increased, the flux decline increased. Additionally, the presence of calcium led not only to an important flux decline but to high adsorption of NOM on the membrane surface. Iron concentrations in the micromolar range resulted in a considerably decline of flux. Filtration of SFBW revealed that the decline of permeability is mainly determined by DOC, calcium and iron concentrations. A decisive effect of biofouling on membrane performance is expected for long term experiments.