Virus and Bacteria Transport in a Sandy Aquifer, Cape Cod, MA

Roger C. Bales, Shimin Li, Kimberly M. Maguire, Moyasar T. Yahya, Charles P. Gerba, Ronald W. Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Transport of the bacteriophage PRD‐1, bacteria, and latex microspheres was studied in a sandy aquifer under natural‐gradient conditions. The field injection was carried out at the U.S. Geological Survey's Toxic Substances Hydrology research site on Cape Cod. The three colloids and a salt tracer (Br) moved along the same path. There was significant attenuation of the phage, with PRD‐1 peak concentrations less than 0.001 percent of Br peaks 6 m from the source; but the low detection limit (one per ml) enabled tracking movement of the PRD‐1 plume for 12 m downgradient over the 25‐day experiment. Attenuation of phage was apparently due to retention on soil particles (adsorption). Attenuation of bacteria and microspheres was less, with peak concentrations 6 m from the source on the order of 10 and 0.4 percent of Br, respectively. Injection of a high‐pH pulse of water 20 days into the experiment resulted in significant remobilization of retained phage, demonstrating that attached phage remained viable, and that PRD‐1 attachment to and detachment from the sandy soil particles was highly pH dependent. Phage behavior in this experiment, i.e. attenuation at pH 5.7 and rapid resuspension at pH 6–8, was consistent with that observed previously in laboratory column studies. Results illustrate that biocolloids travel in a fairly narrow plume in sandy (relatively homogeneous) media, with virus concentrations dropping below detection limit several meters away from the source; bacteria concentrations above detection limits can persist over longer distances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-661
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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