Clarifiers are settling tanks built with mechanical means for continuous removal of solids being deposited by sedimentation. A clarifier is generally used to remove solid particulates or suspended solids from liquid for clarification and (or) thickening. Concentrated impurities, discharged from the bottom of the tank are known as sludge, while the particles that float to the surface of the liquid are called scum.
Before the water enters the clarifier, coagulation and flocculation reagents, such as poly-electrolytes and ferric sulfate, can be added. These reagents cause finely suspended particles to clump together and form larger and denser particles, called flocs, that settle more quickly and stably. This allows the separation of the solids in the clarifier to occur more efficiently and easily; aiding in the conservation of energy. Isolating the particle components first using these processes may reduce the volume of downstream water treatment processes like filtration.
Potable water treatment
Water being purified for human consumption, is treated with flocculation reagents, then sent to the clarifier where removal of the flocculated coagulate occurs producing clarified water. The clarifier works by permitting the heavier and larger particles to settle to the bottom of the clarifier. The particles then form a bottom layer of sludge requiring regular removal and disposal. Clarified water then proceeds through several more steps before being sent for storage and use.
Waste water treatment
Sedimentation tanks have been used to treat wastewater for millennia.
Primary treatment of sewage is removal of floating and settleable solids through sedimentation. Primary clarifiers reduce the content of suspended solids and pollutants embedded in those suspended solids.:5–9 Because of the large amount of reagent necessary to treat domestic wastewater, preliminary chemical coagulation and flocculation are generally not used, remaining suspended solids being reduced by following stages of the system. However, coagulation and flocculation can be used for building a compact treatment plant (also called a "package treatment plant"), or for further polishing of the treated water.
Sedimentation tanks called secondary clarifiers remove flocs of biological growth created in some methods of secondary treatment including activated sludge, trickling filters and rotating biological contactors.