Effects of organic matter on virus transport in unsaturated flow

D. K. Powelson, J. R. Simpson, C. P. Gerba

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64 Scopus citations


The effects of natural humic material and sewage sludge organic matter (SSOM) derived from primary treated sewage sludge on virus transport by unsaturated flow through soil columns were evaluated. Bacteriophage MS-2 was applied to loamy fine sand columns 0.052 m in diameter and 1.05 m long. Virus concentrations in the influent and effluent were measured daily for 7 to 9 days. In the first experiment, virus transport through two fresh soil columns was compared with that through a column previously leached with more than four pore volumes (T) of well water. The soil water organic matter concentrations in the leachate of the fresh soil declined with time. Relative virus concentrations (C/C(o)) from one fresh soil column reached 0.82 in 0.9 T and then declined to 0.51 by 2.1 T. The other fresh soil column reached and maintained a steady-state relative virus concentration [(C/C(o))(s)] of 0.47 from 1.5 to 2.5 T. The leached column reached and maintained a (C/C(o))(s) of 0.05. Concentrations measured at 0.2-, 0.4-, 0.8-, and 1.05-m depths indicated that most virus particles were removed in the surface 0.2 m. In the second experiment, one leached column was pretreated with SSOM derived from primary treated sewage sludge and the other leached column was untreated. SSOM concentrations declined with depth. A suspension of virus and SSOM in well water was applied to both columns. Although the (C/C(o))(s) values were similar (0.41 for the pretreated column and 0.47 for the untreated column), breakthrough was delayed for the untreated column. Both natural humic material and sewage sludge-derived SSOM increased the unsaturated-flow transport of MS-2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2192-2196
Number of pages5
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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