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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Ground Water Quality

Effect of Soil Properties on Saturated and Unsaturated Virus Transport through Columns


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 32 No. 6, p. 2017-2025
    Received: Aug 6, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): yjin@udel.edu
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  1. Yanjie Chuac,
  2. Yan Jin *a,
  3. Thomas Baumannb and
  4. Marylynn V. Yatesc
  1. a Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19717
    c Y. Chu, current address), Department of Environmental Sciences, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521
    b Institute of Hydrochemistry, Technical University of Munich, Marchioninistrasse 17, D-81377, Munich, Germany


Viruses from contaminant sources can be transported through porous media to drinking water wells. The objective of this study was to investigate inactivation and sorption of viruses during saturated and unsaturated transport in different soils. Bacteriophages φX174 and MS-2, and Br tracer in a phosphate-buffered saline solution were introduced into saturated and unsaturated soil columns as a step function under constant flow rate and hydraulic conditions. Results showed that significantly greater virus removal occurred in the unsaturated columns than in the saturated columns in the two soils containing high metal oxides content. However, the increase in virus retention under unsaturated conditions was not significant in two other soils having high phosphorus and calcium contents and high pH, and in another soil with high organic matter content. The results imply that the extent of water content effect on inactivation and sorption of viruses can range from significant to minimal depending on the properties of the transport medium. We found that the presence of in situ metal oxides was a significant factor responsible for virus sorption and inactivation. Therefore, soils with high metal oxides content may have the potential to be used as hydrological barriers in preventing microbial contamination in the subsurface environments. We also found that the water content effect on virus removal and inactivation strongly depended on solid properties of the testing medium.

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