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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Ground Water Quality

Influence of Flow Rate on Transport of Bacteriophage in Shale Saprolite


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 31 No. 4, p. 1095-1105
    Received: Apr 6, 2001

    * Corresponding author(s): lmckay@utk.edu
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  1. L.D. McKay *a,
  2. A.D. Hartonb and
  3. G.V. Wilsonc
  1. a Dep. of Geological Sciences, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-1410
    b Lexington, VA (formerly UT-Knoxville)
    c USDA-ARS National Sedimentation Lab., 598 McElroy Dr., Oxford, MS 38655


The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of flow rate on transport and retention of bacteriophage tracers in a fractured shale saprolite, which is a highly weathered, fine-grained subsoil that retains much of the fabric of the parent bedrock. Synthetic ground water containing PRD-1, MS-2, and bromide was passed through a saturated column of undisturbed shale saprolite at rates ranging from 0.0075 to 0.96 m d−1 First arrival of the bacteriophage tracers in effluent samples in each of the experiments occurred within 0.01 to 0.04 pore volumes (PV) of the start of injection, indicating that bacteriophage were advectively transported mainly through fractures or macropores. Bacteriophage transport velocities, based on first arrival in the effluent, were very similar to fracture flow velocities calculated using the cubic law for flow in a fractured material. For MS-2, maximum concentration and mass of tracer recovered both increased steadily as flow rate increased. For PRD-1, these values initially increased, but were nearly constant at flow rates above 0.039 m d−1, indicating that approximately 50% of the observed losses were independent of flow rate. Evaluation of the data indicates that physical straining and electrostatic or hydrophobic attachment to fracture or macropore walls were the dominant retention processes. Inactivation and gravitational settling playing secondary roles, except at the slowest flow rates. The study suggests that microbial contamination from sources such as septic fields and sewage ponds may pose a threat to the quality of ground water and surface water in areas with saprolitic subsoils.

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Copyright © 2002. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.31:1095–1105.