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Description: Air stripping is a full-scale technology in which volatile organics are partitioned from groundwater by greatly increasing the surface area of the contaminated water exposed to air. Types of aeration methods include packed towers, diffused aeration, tray aeration, and spray aeration.

diffused aeration, tray aeration, and spray aeration. 4-44 TYPICAL AIR STRIPPING SYSTEM Air stripping involves the


Air stripping involves the mass transfer of volatile contaminants from water to air. For groundwater remediation, this process is typically conducted in a packed tower or an aeration tank. The typical packed tower air stripper includes a spray nozzle at the top of the tower to distribute contaminated water over the packing in the column, a fan to force air countercurrent to the water flow, and a sump at the bottom of the tower to collect decontaminated water. Auxiliary equipment that can be added to the basic air stripper includes an air heater to improve removal efficiencies; automated control systems with sump level switches and safety features, such as differential pressure monitors, high sump level switches, and explosion-proof components; and air emission control and treatment systems, such as activated carbon units, catalytic oxidizers, or thermal oxidizers. Packed tower air strippers are installed either as permanent installations on concrete pads or on a skid or a trailer.

Aeration tanks strip volatile compounds by bubbling air into a tank through which contaminated water flows. A forced air blower and a distribution manifold are designed to ensure air-water contact without the need for any packing materials. The baffles and multiple units ensure adequate residence


time for stripping to occur. Aeration tanks are typically sold as continuously operated skid-mounted units. The advantages offered by aeration tanks are considerably lower profiles (less than 2 meters or 6 feet high) than packed towers (5 to 12 meters or 15 to 40 feet high) where height may be a problem, and the ability to modify performance or adapt to changing feed composition by adding or removing trays or chambers. The discharge air from aeration tanks can be treated using the same technology as for packed tower air discharge treatment.

Air strippers can be operated continuously or in a batch mode where the air stripper is intermittently fed from a collection tank. The batch mode ensures consistent air stripper performance and greater energy efficiency than continuously operated units because mixing in the storage tanks eliminates any inconsistencies in feed water composition.

Applicability: Air stripping is used to separate VOCs from water. It is ineffective for inorganic contaminants. Henry's law constant is used to determine whether air stripping will be effective. Generally, organic compounds with constants greater than 0.01 atmospheres - m /mol are considered amenable to stripping. Some compounds that have been successfully separated from water using air stripping include BTEX, chloroethane, TCE, DCE, and PCE.



The following factors may limit the applicability and effectiveness of the process:

• The potential exists for inorganic (e.g., iron greater than 5 ppm, hardness greater than 800 ppm) or biological fouling of the equipment, requiring pretreatment or periodic column cleaning.

• Consideration should be given to the Henry's law constant of the VOCs in the water stream, and the type and amount of packing used in the tower.

• Compounds with low volatility at ambient temperature may require preheating of the groundwater.

• Off-gases may require treatment based on mass emission rate.

Data Needs:

A detailed discussion of these data elements is provided in Subsection 2.2.2 (Data Requirements for Groundwater, Surface Water, and Leachate).

Vendors require the following information to select the properly sized tower for a specific application: range of feedwater flow rates; range of water and air temperatures; whether the tower will operate continuously or intermittently; tower feed and discharge systems (gravity feed or type and location of pumps); height restrictions on the tower; influent contaminant identification and concentrations; mineral content; pH; requirements for effluent water contaminant concentrations; and restrictions on air discharge from the tower.





Removal efficiencies around 99% are typical for towers that have 4.6 to 6 meters (15 to 20 feet) of packing and are removing compounds amenable to stripping. Removal efficiencies can be improved by adding a second air stripper in series with the first, heating the contaminated water, increasing the air/liquid ratio, or heating the air. Thermal units for treating air stripper emissions can be used as a source of heat. The performance of aeration tanks can be improved by adding chambers or trays, or by increasing the air supply, depending on the design of the tank.

The major problem encountered with packed tower air strippers is fouling of the packing, which reduces the air flow rate. Fouling is caused by oxidation of minerals in the feed water, such as iron and magnesium, by precipitation of calcium, and by biological growth on the packing material.


A major operating cost of air strippers is the electricity required for the groundwater pump, the sump discharge pump, and the air blower. The power rating of the groundwater pump and discharge pump depends on the pressure head and pressure drop across the column and should be obtained from pump

curves. As a generalized rule, pumps in the 4 to 80 liters per minute (1 to 20- gpm) range require from 0.33 to 2 HP; from 80 to 290 liters per minute (20 to

75 gpm) power ratings are 1 to 5 HP; and from 380 to 2,270 liters per minute

(100 to 600 gpm), power ratings range from 5 to 30 HP. A crude method of estimating blower motor power assumes that each foot of air stripper diameter requires 1.5 HP.

References: Dietrich, C., D. Treichler, and J. Armstrong, 1987. An Evaluation of Rotary Air Stripping for Removal of Volatile Organics from Groundwater, USAF Environmental and Service Center Report ESL-TR-86-46.

Elliott, M.G. and E.G. Marchand, 1990. "USAF Air Stripping and Emissions Control Research," in Proceedings of the 14th Annual Army Environmental Symposium, USATHAMA Report CETHA-TE-TR-90055.

Shukla, H.M. and R.E. Hicks, 1984. Process Design Manual for Stripping of Organics, Water General Corporation for EPA, EPA/600/12-84/139, NTIS PB

84 232628.

Singh, S.P., 1989. Air Stripping of Volatile Organic Compounds from Groundwater: An Evaluation of a Centrifugal Vapor-Liquid Contractor, USAF Environmental and Service Center Report ESL-TR-86-46.

Wilson, J.H., R.M. Counce, A.J. Lucero, H.L. Jennings, and S.P. Singh, 1991. Air Stripping and Emissions Control Technologies: Field Testing of Counter Current Packings, Rotary Air Stripping, Catalytic Oxidation, and Adsorption Materials, ESL TR 90-51.


Site Information:





Site Name






9th Ave.

Beth Fleming

Bench scale unit to treat VOCs in groundwater


Superfund Site


Gary, IN

Attn: CEWES-EE-S 3909 Halls Ferry Road Vicksburg, MS 39180-






(601) 634-3943

Englin AFB

Edward G. Marchand HQ AFCESA/RAVW

Field testing of rotary air stripper — high iron content





Tyndall AFB, FL 32403-





(904) 283-6023

DOE - Savannah River Site


500-gpm air stripper, 11 wells

15-ppm TCE, 6.7- ppm PCE

Less than 1 TCE and PCE

$0.20/1,000 L





Note: NA = Not Available.

Points of Contact:


Government Agency



Capt. Edward G. Marchand


(904) 283-6023

HQ AFCESA/RAV Tyndall AFB, FL 32403-5319

Dr. James Heidman


FTS 684-7632

26 West M.L. King Dr. Cincinnati, OH 45268

(513) 569-7632



(410) 671-2054 Fax: (410) 612-6836

SFIM-AEC-ETD APG, MD 21010-5401

Demonstration and

Transfer Branch