Virus transport and removal in wastewater during aquifer recharge

David K. Powelson, Charles P. Gerba, Moyasar T. Yahya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


To assess soil-aquifer treatment of sewage effluent for removal of viruses, studies were conducted at a recharge/recovery site near Tucson, Ariz. Two 13 m2 basins were constructed in coarse sand alluvium, one for secondary- and one for tertiary-treated effluent. Bacterial viruses, MS2 and PRDI, and a chemical tracer, potassium bromide (KBr), were added to effluent applied to these basins. Infiltration rates ranged from 0.2 to 16.8 m/d. Samples of unsaturated flow from depths of 0.30-6.08 m below the basin were taken through porous stainless steel suction-samplers. Bromide and virus results indicated the presence of preferential flow conditions that produced irregular concentration profiles with depth. Virus transport was retarded (R = 1.9) at the beginning of a flooding cycle, but viruses were transported faster than the average water velocity (R = 0.47) when applied after the infiltration rate had declined following 4 days of flooding. Virus specific removal rates (b) during percolation through soil were 2.3-120 times greater than in bottles of effluent or ground water. PRDI was removed more rapidly during percolation (b = 0.65 h-1) than MS2 (b = 0.23 h-1). Effluent type did not significantly affect b for MS2, but the PRDI rate was nearly 3 times greater with secondary effluent (1.0 h-1) compared to tertiary effluent (0.35 h-1). Virus removals at the 4.3 m depth ranged from 37 to 99.7%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-590
Number of pages8
JournalWater research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1993


  • MS2
  • PRDI
  • bacteriophage
  • effluent
  • land disposal
  • recharge
  • reclamation of water
  • removal
  • sewage
  • transport
  • virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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