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Water Res. 2010 Feb;44(4):1193-201. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2009.05.049. Epub 2009 Jul 2.

Biofilm morphology as related to the porous media clogging.

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Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory, USDA-ARS, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705, USA.


Aquifer recharge for the wastewater reuse has been considered and studied as a promising process to cope with the worldwide water scarcity. Soil clogging by an excessive growth of bacteria is often accompanied with the aquifer recharge. In this study, biofilm morphology and hydraulic conductivity were concurrently characterized at two flow rates and two levels of substrate concentrations. The experiments were conducted using a biofilm flow cell that was filled with glass beads. The biofilm images taken by confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) were quantified by textural, areal, and fractal parameters. Hydraulic conductivity was monitored during the experiments. The flow velocity influenced the superficial morphology of biofilms and initial clogging time, while the substrate concentration affected biofilm density and clogging rate. Three different clogging mechanisms were suggested depending on the flow rate and substrate concentration: (1) clogging at a high flow rate can be accelerated by entrapped and accumulated biofilms, and can be easily eliminated by high shear force, (2) clogging at a low flow rate can be delayed for the time of local biofilm growths in the narrow pore necks, but the biofilm is rigid enough not to be sloughed, and (3) clogging in a solution with high substrate concentrations cannot be easily eliminated because of the growth of dense biofilms. The depicted biological clogging mechanisms will play a role in supporting studies about aquifer recharge.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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