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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 1, p. 316-329
    Received: Oct 29, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): svancuyk@mines.edu
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Evaluating Microbial Purification during Soil Treatment of Wastewater with Multicomponent Tracer and Surrogate Tests

  1. Sheila Van Cuyk *a,
  2. Robert L. Siegrista,
  3. Kathryn Lowea and
  4. Ronald W. Harveyb
  1. a Environmental Science and Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO 80401
    b Water Resources Division, United States Geological Survey, Boulder, CO 80303


Soil treatment of wastewater has the potential to achieve high purification efficiency, yet the understanding and predictability of purification with respect to removal of viruses and other pathogens is limited. Research has been completed to quantify the removal of virus and bacteria through the use of microbial surrogates and conservative tracers during controlled experiments with three-dimensional pilot-scale soil treatment systems in the laboratory and during the testing of full-scale systems under field conditions. The surrogates and tracers employed included two viruses (MS-2 and PRD-1 bacteriophages), one bacterium (ice-nucleating active Pseudomonas), and one conservative tracer (bromide ion). Efforts have also been made to determine the relationship between viruses and fecal coliform bacteria in soil samples below the wastewater infiltrative surface, and the correlation between Escherichia coli concentrations measured in percolating soil solution as compared with those estimated from analyses of soil solids. The results suggest episodic breakthrough of virus and bacteria during soil treatment of wastewater and a 2 to 3 log (99–99.9%) removal of virus and near complete removal of fecal coliform bacteria during unsaturated flow through 60 to 90 cm of sandy medium. Results also suggest that the fate of fecal coliform bacteria may be indicative of that of viruses in soil media near the infiltrative surface receiving wastewater effluent. Concentrations of fecal coliform in percolating soil solution may be conservatively estimated from analysis of extracted soil solids.

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