A Field Example of Bacteriophage as Tracers of Fracture Flow

Larry D. McKay, John A. Cherry, Roger C. Bales, Moyasar T. Yahya, Charles P. Gerba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Two bacteriophages, MS-2 and PRD-1, were added to water to an initial concentration of 105−106 pfu mL−1 in a trench-to-trench lateral groundwater flow and tracer migration experiment in the upper 5.5 m of a weathered and fractured clay-rich till. Phage were detected in water from seepage collectors set in the wall of a downgradient (gradient = 0.24) trench, located 4 m from the source trench, between 1 and 2 days after the start of the injection. Peak phage concentrations in the collectors were typically 102−104 pfu mL−1, and detectable phage (>0.1 pfu mL−1) persisted for up to 5 days. In contrast, the travel time for bromide in the same trenches was several months. The colloidal phage are believed to have moved mainly through fractures with little diffusion into pores of the clay matrix. Phage attenuation was due to inactivation and either attachment to the fracture walls or diffusion into the larger pores. At the temperature of the current experiment (10–12 °C), phage inactivation rates were sufficiently low to permit their use as groundwater tracers over periods of several days.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1075-1079
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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