Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 400–409 | Cite as

Straining phenomena in bacteria transport through natural porous media



Background, aim, and scope

Transport of bacteria through natural porous media is an issue of increasing concern arising in several very important environmental processes. These include the percolation of bacteria from fecal waste to drinking water reservoirs, thus leading to a risk for human health, or the bioremediation of contaminated soils in which the bacteria are expected to travel long distances underground in order to reach contaminated areas and degrade chemicals originating from accidental spills. An understanding of bacterial retention and transport mechanisms in porous media would be of great help in the development of models able to predict the distance covered by bacterial suspensions in these situations.

Materials and methods

Experiments were carried out preparing columns filled of soil and sand, introducing bacteria culture (Escherichia coli, Pseudomona putida, and Listeria innocua) solutions by the top of the column. Breakthrough curves were obtained to see the transport of the bacteria in the column.


The transport of different bacteria in the two soils aimed at establishing the relative importance of straining in different conditions. This has enabled us to obtain certain parameters, such as the sticking coefficients derived from the filtration theory or bacterial recoveries after multi-step elution, which aid our understanding of how bacteria are retained by mechanisms different to those usually included in the physico-chemical filtration theory.


Several indicators may be used to determine the degree of relevance of straining as a mechanism acting during bacterial transport through porous media. Usually, in natural media, neither straining nor physico-chemical filtration is the sole mechanism contributing to bacterial retention. The retention of bacteria by straining mechanisms can be assessed by means of elution profiles under varying conditions. The inversion of flow in our experiments gave rise to secondary elution peaks, probably originating from bacteria retained in narrow pores


According to experimental observations, straining was shown to contribute highly to bacterial retention in all the soils tested, in particular in the soils with a broader grain size distribution and more irregular shape. In both media, an increase in ionic strength did not lead to significant differences in bacterial retention, possibly due to the lack of relevance of ionic repulsion as a barrier to physico-chemical attachment of particles

Recommendation and perspectives

The study of bacteria transport in natural soil is an important step in the development of decontamination processes. The importance of the straining in the transport process has been revealed in the work carried out in this paper.


Bacterial straining Escherichia coli Filtration Listeria innocua Pseudomona putida Soil column 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical Engineering and Environmental TechnologyUniversity of OviedoOviedoSpain

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