For their simplicity and using cheap support materials, biological filtration of municipal wastewater can be adequate for developing countries where the legislation is not as strict as in other countries, like the members of the European Union. Biological filters are fixed biomass reactors where the suspended pollutants can easily be retained and the dissolved substances can be transformed by microbial activity. A pilot anaerobic filter was built and filled with lava stones sieved to obtain particles with an average size of 6 mm. The filter was fed with municipal wastewater during 220 days under hydraulic retention times (HRT) of 4.3 and 9.8 hours (average organic loading rates of 0.48 and 1.23 kgCOD/m3 d). The results show that the pH did not change significantly during the process. Lower organic loading rates (higher HRT) resulted in better COD and TSS removal rates. Average biogas composition showed methane to be 67% for the lower organic loading rate and 63% for the higher one. Backwashing with air for 5 minutes every 72 hours did not negatively affect the overall anaerobic process. Average TSS removal was 79 and 73% for the higher and lower HRT (lower and higher organic loading rates), respectively. The overall performance of the anaerobic filter is comparable with the reported values in the literature. The COD and TSS removal rates are slightly inferior to the ones reported in the literature for UASB reactors treating municipal wastewater.
Keywords: Anaerobic filter, hydraulic retention time, municipal wastewater, organic load