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Water Res. 2008 Jan;42(1-2):211-9. Epub 2007 Jun 30.

Effect of humic acid on the attachment of Escherichia coli in columns of goethite-coated sand.

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UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, P.O. Box 3015, 2601 DA Delft, The Netherlands.


Though coliform bacteria are used worldwide to indicate faecal pollution of groundwater, the parameters determining the transport of Escherichia coli in aquifers are relatively unknown. To investigate the effect of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) on the attachment of E. coli to saturated goethite-coated sand, we carried out column experiments with E. coli with and without humic acid (HA) in monovalent and divalent salt solutions. To characterize sorption of DOC and attachment of E. coli, we measured the pH of the influent and effluent, the cation concentrations and the zeta potential of particles. Depending on the chemistry of the E. coli suspension, the normalized breakthrough concentrations were over 80 times higher in columns treated with HA compared with columns not treated with HA. However, this difference was not constant: there were time-dependent variations in attachment of E. coli to the collector surface, and in the chemical composition of the bacterial suspension. Reduction in removal occurred because HA altered the surface charge of the collector and also sterically hindered E. coli. In addition, reduction of removal in a CaCl(2) bacterial suspension was probably caused by site-blocking mechanisms between HA and Ca(2+) ions. Our results indicate that in the presence of DOC, the concept of geochemical heterogeneity in explaining attachment of biocolloids has limited relevance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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