Sediment re-suspension as a potential mechanism for viral and bacterial contaminants

Hannah P. Sassi, Floris van Ogtrop, Christina M. Morrison, Kang Zhou, Jennifer G. Duan, Charles P. Gerba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Pathogenic enteric viruses and bacteria tend to occur in higher concentrations and survive longer in aquatic sediments than suspended in the water column. Re-suspension of these organisms can result in a significant degradation of overlying water quality. Additionally, the re-suspension of microbial pathogens in artificial irrigation canals could endanger the consumption of fresh and ready-to-eat produce. Irrigation water has been implicated in numerous fresh produce outbreaks over the last 30 years. This study aimed to quantify the proportions of bacterial and viral re-suspension from sediment in a recirculating flume with varying velocities. MS2 coliphage and Escherichia coli were found to re-suspend at rates that were not significantly different, despite organism size differences. However, E. coli re-suspension rates from sand and clay were significantly different. This suggests that likely sediment-associated particles were recovered with the organisms attached. Similar re-suspension rates are hypothesized to be due to the dynamics of sediment transport, rather than that of the organisms themselves. This study also indicated that the re-suspension of sediment at very low velocities (e.g., less than 10 cm/s), could impact the microbiological quality of the overlaying water. Results from this study conclude that sediment could be a viable mechanism for irrigation water contamination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1398-1405
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health - Part A Toxic/Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2020


  • Irrigation water quality
  • fate and transport
  • food safety
  • health-related water microbiology
  • sediment re-suspension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Sediment re-suspension as a potential mechanism for viral and bacterial contaminants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this