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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Ground Water Quality

Straining, Attachment, and Detachment of Cryptosporidium Oocysts in Saturated Porous Media


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 34 No. 2, p. 469-478
    Received: June 2, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): sbradford@ussl.ars.usda.gov
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  1. S. A. Bradford *a and
  2. M. Bettaharb
  1. a USDA-ARS, George E. Brown Jr. Salinity Laboratory, 450 W. Big Springs Road, Riverside, CA 92507-4617
    b Parsons, 100 West Walnut Street, Pasadena, CA 91124


Accurate knowledge of the transport and deposition behavior for pathogenic Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts is needed to assess contamination and protect water resources. Experimental and modeling studies were undertaken to examine the roles of attachment, detachment, and straining on oocyst transport and retention. Saturated column studies were conducted using Ottawa aquifer sands (U.S. Silica, Ottawa, IL) with median grain sizes of 710, 360, and 150 μm. Decreasing the median sand size tended to produce lower effluent concentrations, greater oocyst retention in the sand near the column inlet, and breakthrough of oocysts at later times. Oocyst transport data also exhibited concentration tailing. Mathematical modeling of the oocyst transport data using fitted first-order attachment and detachment coefficients provided a satisfactory description of the observed effluent concentration curves, but a poor characterization of the oocyst spatial distribution. Modeling of these data using an irreversible straining term that is depth dependent provided a better description of the oocyst spatial distribution, but could not account for the observed effluent concentration tailing or late breakthrough times. A more physically realistic description of the data was obtained by modeling attachment, detachment, and straining. The percentage of total oocysts retained by straining was estimated from effluent mass balance considerations to be 68% for 710-μm sand, 79% for 360-μm sand, and 87% for 150-μm sand. Straining coefficients were then selected to achieve these percentages of total oocyst retention, and attachment and detachment coefficients were fitted to the effluent concentration curves. Dramatic differences in the predicted oocyst breakthrough curves were observed at greater transport distances for the various model formulations (inclusion or exclusion of straining). Justification for oocyst straining was provided by trends in the transport data, simulation results, pore size distribution information, and published literature.

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