The decimal elimination capacity (DEC) of slow sand filters (SSF) for viruses, bacteria and oocysts of Cryptosporidium has been assessed from full-scale data and pilot plant and laboratory experiments. DEC for viruses calculated from experimental data with MS2-bacteriophages in the pilot plant filters was 1.5-2 log10. E. coli and thermotolerant coliforms (Coli44) were removed at full-scale and in the pilot plant with 2-3 log10. At full-scale, Campylobacter bacteria removal was 1 log10 more than removal of Coli44, which indicated that Coli44 was a conservative surrogate for these pathogenic bacteria. Laboratory experiments with sand columns showed 2-3 and >5-6 log10 removal of spiked spores of sulphite-reducing clostridia (SSRC; C. perfringens) and oocysts of Cryptosporidium respectively. Consequently, SSRC was not a good surrogate to quantify oocyst removal by SSF. Removal of indigenous SSRC by full-scale filters was less efficient than observed in the laboratory columns, probably due to continuous loading of these filter beds with spores, accumulation and retarded transport. It remains to be investigated if this also applies to oocyst removal by SSF. The results additionally showed that the schmutzdecke and accumulation of (in)organic charged compounds in the sand increased the elimination of microorganisms. Removal of the schmutzdecke reduced DEC for bacteria by ±2 log10, but did not affect removal of phages. This clearly indicated that, besides biological activity, both straining and adsorption were important removal mechanisms in the filter bed for microorganisms larger than viruses.

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