Influence of water chemistry and travel distance on bacteriophage PRD-1 transport in a sandy aquifer

William J. Blanford, Mark L. Brusseau, T. C.Jim Yeh, Charles P. Gerba, Ronald Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Experiments were conducted to evaluate the impact of groundwater chemistry and travel distance on the transport and fate behavior of PRD-1, a bacteriophage employed as a surrogate tracer for pathogenic enteric viruses. The experiments were conducted in the unconfined aquifer at the United States Geological Survey Cape Cod Toxic-Substances Hydrology Research Site in Falmouth, Massachusetts. The transport behavior of bromide (Br-) and PRD-1 were evaluated in a sewage-effluent contaminated zone and a shallower uncontaminated zone at this site. Several multilevel sampling devices located along a 13-m transect were used to collect vertically discrete samples to examine longitudinal and vertical variability of PRD-1 retardation and attenuation. The concentration of viable bacteriophage in the aqueous phase decreased greatly during the first few meters of transport. This decrease is attributed to a combination of colloid filtration (attachment) and inactivation. The removal was greater (10 -12 relative recovery) and occurred within the first meter for the uncontaminated zone, whereas it was lesser (10-9 relative recovery) and occurred over 4 m in the contaminated zone. The lesser removal observed for the contaminated zone is attributed to the influence of sorbed and dissolved organic matter, phosphate, and other anions, which are present in higher concentrations in the contaminated zone, on PRD-1 attachment. After the initial decrease, the aqueous PRD-1 concentrations remained essentially constant in both zones for the remainder of the tests (total travel distances of 13 m), irrespective of variations in geochemical properties within and between the two zones. The viable, mobile PRD-1 particles traveled at nearly the rate of bromide, which was used as a non-reactive tracer. The results of this study indicate that a small fraction of viable virus particles may persist in the aqueous phase and travel significant distances in the subsurface environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2345-2357
Number of pages13
JournalWater research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2005


  • Groundwater
  • Transport
  • Virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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