Saturated and unsaturated flow through sloped compost filter beds of different particle sizes

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Little is known about the hydraulics of sloped compost beds having active free and non-flowing zones, and used for runoff erosion and volume control, and heavy metal removal. Water sorption tests on yard waste compost indicated that water transfer between the two zones would be slow (6 hr for a 0.04 m rise). The free flowing zone in ≈1 m long sloped (15°) beds increased in depth (0.01–0.08 m) with decreasing particle size and increasing flow. Particle size and flow (0.08–0.3 L/s/m) affected bed stability. Drainage volume increased with flow while drainage time remained fairly constant. Saturated flow occurred depending on the particle size above 0.02–0.165 L/s/m. Data indicate that sheet runoff from low intensity storms would most likely create unsaturated but stable bed conditions. Concentrated flows as from downspouts would likely create saturated conditions and have to be managed to prevent washout. A model based on porous media theory indicated that flow regime under saturated flow is turbulent. Results can be used to design compost beds for various runoff rates and to develop a heavy metal sorption model.

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