Variable non-linear removal of viruses during transport through a saturated soil column

Walter Q. Betancourt, Jack Schijven, Julia Regnery, Alexandre Wing, Christina M. Morrison, Jörg E. Drewes, Charles P. Gerba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Reduction of viral surrogates (bacteriophage MS2 and murine norovirus-1 [MNV-1]) and viruses naturally present in wastewater (enteroviruses, adenoviruses, Aichi viruses, reovirus, pepper mild mottle virus) was studied in a long-term experiment simulating soil-aquifer treatment of a non-disinfected secondary treated wastewater effluent blend using a 4.4 m deep saturated soil column (95% sand, 4% silt, 1% clay) with a hydraulic residence time of 15.4 days under predominantly anoxic redox conditions. Water samples were collected over a four-week period from the column inflow and outflow as well as from seven intermediate sampling ports at different depths. Removal of MS2 was 3.5 log10 over 4.4 m and removal of MNV-1 was 3 log10 over 0.3 m. Notably, MNV-1 was removed to below detection limit within 0.3 m of soil passage. In secondary treated wastewater effluent, MNV-1 RNA and MS2 RNA degraded at a first-order rate of 0.59 day−1 and 0.12 day−1, respectively. In 15.4 days, the time to pass the soil column, the RNA-degradation of MS2 would amount to 0.8 log10, and in one day that of MNV-1 0.3 log10 implying that attachment of MNV-1 and MS2 to the sandy soil took place. Among the indigenous viruses, genome copies reductions were observed for Aichi virus (4.9 log10) and for pepper mild mottle virus (4.4 log10). This study demonstrated that under saturated flow and predominantly anoxic redox conditions MS2 removal was non-linear and could be described well by a power-law relation. Pepper mild mottle virus was removed less than all of the other viruses studied, which substantiates field studies at managed aquifer recharge sites, suggesting it may be a conservative model/tracer for enteric virus transport through soil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103479
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Groundwater recharge
  • Soil-aquifer treatment
  • Soil-column, removal
  • Viruses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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