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J Contam Hydrol. 2010 Sep 20;117(1-4):71-81. doi: 10.1016/j.jconhyd.2010.06.007. Epub 2010 Jun 30.

Transport of Escherichia coli and F-RNA bacteriophages in a 5m column of saturated pea gravel.

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Institute of Environmental Science and Research, Christchurch, New Zealand.


The relative transport and attenuation of bacteria, bacteriophages, and bromide was determined in a 5m long x 0.3m diameter column of saturated pea gravel. The velocity (V), longitudinal dispersivity (alpha(x)) and total removal rate (lambda) were calculated from the breakthrough curves at 1m, 3m, and 5m, at a flow rate of 32Lh(-1). Inactivation (mu) rates were determined in survival chambers. Two pure culture experiments with Escherichia coli J6-2 and F-RNA phage MS2 produced an overall V ranking of E. coli J6-2>MS2>bromide, consistent with velocity enhancement, whereby larger particles progressively move into faster, central streamlines of saturated pores. Removal rates were near zero for MS2, but were higher for E. coli J6-2. In two sewage experiments, E. coli and F-RNA phage Vs were similar (but > bromide). This was attributed to phage adsorption to colloids similar in size to E. coli cells. Sewage phage removal rates were higher than for the pure MS2 cultures. The application of filtration theory suggested that, whereas free phage were unaffected by settling, this was the primary removal mechanism for the colloid-associated phage. However, cultured and sewage E. coli removal rates were similar, suggesting the dominance of free E. coli cells in the sewage. When MS2 was attached to kaolin particles, it was transported faster than free MS2, but at similar rates to sewage phage. The mu values indicated little contribution of inactivation to removal of either cultured or sewage microorganisms. The results showed the importance of association with colloids in determining the relative transport of bacteria and viruses in gravels.

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