13 Dec 2022
 | 13 Dec 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal HESS.

Improving soil aquifer treatment efficiency using air injection into the subsurface

Ido Arad, Aviya Ziner, Shany Ben Moshe, Noam Weisbrod, and Alex Furman

Abstract. Soil aquifer treatment (SAT) is an effective and sustainable technology for wastewater or stormwater treatment, storage and reuse. During SAT, the vadose zone acts as a pseudo reactor in which physical and biochemical processes are utilized to improve the infiltrated water quality. Dissolved oxygen (DO) is necessary for aerobic microbial oxidation of carbon and nitrogen species in the effluent. Therefore, to enhance aeration, SAT is generally operated in flooding and drying cycles. While long drying periods (DPs) lead to better oxidizing conditions and improve water quality, they reduce recharge volumes. As the population grows, the quantity of effluent directed to SAT sites increases and increasing recharge volumes become a concern and often a limiting factor for SAT usage.

In this study, direct subsurface air injection SAT (Air-SAT) was tested as an alternative to long DPs operation. Six long column experiments were conducted, aiming to examine the effect of air injection on the soil's water content, oxidation-reduction potential (ORP), DO concentrations, infiltrated amounts and ultimate outflow quality. In addition to basic parameters such as dissolved organic-C (DOC) and N species, the effluent quality analysis also included an examination of three emerging water contaminants – Ibuprofen, Carbamazepine and 1H-benzotriazole. Pulsed air injection experiments were conducted during continuous flooding at different operation modes (i.e., air pulse durations, frequencies and airflow rates).

Our results show that the Air-SAT operation doubled the infiltration time (i.e., the infiltration was continuous with no off-time) and allowed up to 46 % higher infiltration rate in some cases. As a result, the infiltrated volumes in the Air-SAT modes were 47–203 % higher than the conventional flooding-drying operation (FDO). Longer air pulse duration (60 vs. 8 min) and higher airflow rate (~2 vs. ~1 SLPM) led to a higher infiltration rate, while a high pulse frequency (4.5−1 h−1) led to a lower infiltration rate compared to low-frequency operation (24−1 h−1).

The air injection also allowed good recovery of the ORP and DO levels in the soil, especially in the high-frequency Air-SAT experiments, where steady aerobic conditions were maintained during most of the flooding. Consequently, the mean DOC, total Kjeldahl N (TKN), and Ibuprofen removals in these experiments were higher than in FDO by up to 9, 40, and 65 %, respectively. However, high-frequency Air-SAT during continuous flooding also led to significant deterioration in the infiltration rate, probably due to enhanced biological clogging. Hence, it may be more feasible and beneficial to combine it with the conventional FDO, allowing a steady infiltration rate and increased recharge volumes, while sustaining high effluent quality. While those results still need to be verified at full scale, they open the possibility of using air injection to minimize the DPs length and alleviate the pressure over existing SAT sites.

Ido Arad et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2022-376', Anonymous Referee #1, 31 Jan 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2022-376', Anonymous Referee #2, 14 Apr 2023

Ido Arad et al.

Data sets

Improving soil aquifer treatment efficiency using air injection into the subsurface - Data set Arad, Ido; Ziner, Aviya; Ben Moshe, Shany; Weisbrod, Noam; Furman, Alex

Ido Arad et al.


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Short summary
In a series of long-column experiments, subsurface air injection in soil aquifer treatment (Air-SAT) was tested as an alternative to this tertiary wastewater treatment's conventional flooding drying operation (FDO). Our results show that Air-SAT allows the treatment of increased volumes, and similar or better effluent quality, compared to FDO. Those results open the possibility of using air injection to treat more effluent and alleviate the pressure over existing SAT sites.