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J Contam Hydrol. 2007 Jul 17;92(3-4):255-73. Epub 2007 Jan 24.

Bacteria transport and deposition under unsaturated conditions: the role of the matrix grain size and the bacteria surface protein.

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Agrosphere (ICG-IV), Institute of Chemistry and Dynamics of the Geosphere (ICG), Forschungszentrum, Jülich GmbH D-52425, Jülich, Germany.


Unsaturated (80% water saturated) packed column experiments were conducted to investigate the influence of grain size distribution and bacteria surface macromolecules on bacteria (Rhodococcus rhodochrous) transport and deposition mechanisms. Three sizes of silica sands were used in these transport experiments, and their median grain sizes were 607, 567, and 330 microm. The amount of retained bacteria increased with decreasing sand size, and most of the deposited bacteria were found adjacent to the column inlet. The deposition profiles were not consistent with predictions based on classical filtration theory. The experimental data could be accurately characterized using a mathematical model that accounted for first-order attachment, detachment, and time and depth-dependent straining processes. Visual observations of the bacteria deposition as well as mathematical modelling indicated that straining was the dominant mechanism of deposition in these sands (78-99.6% of the deposited bacteria), which may have been enhanced due to the tendency of this bacterium to form aggregates. An additional unsaturated experiment was conducted to better deduce the role of bacteria surface macromolecules on attachment and straining processes. In this case, the bacteria surface was treated using a proteolitic enzyme. This technique was assessed by examining the Fourier-transform infrared spectrum and hydrophobicity of untreated and enzyme treated cells. Both of these analytical procedures demonstrated that this enzymatic treatment removed the surface proteins and/or associated macromolecules. Transport and modelling studies conducted with the enzyme treated bacteria, revealed a decrease in attachment, but that straining was not significantly affected by this treatment.

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