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Transport of Escherichia coli phage through saturated porous media considering managed aquifer recharge


Virus is one of the most potentially harmful microorganisms in groundwater. In this paper, the effects of hydrodynamic and hydrogeochemical conditions on the transportation of the colloidal virus considering managed aquifer recharge were systematically investigated. Escherichia coli phage, vB_EcoM-ep3, has a broad host range and was able to lyse pathogenic Escherichia coli. Bacteriophage with low risk to infect human has been found extensively in the groundwater environment, so it is considered as a representative model of groundwater viruses. Laboratory studies were carried out to analyze the transport of the Escherichia coli phage under varying conditions of pH, ionic strength, cation valence, flow rate, porous media, and phosphate buffer concentration. The results indicated that decreasing the pH will increase the adsorption of Escherichia coli phage. Increasing the ionic strength, either Na+ or Ca2+, will form negative condition for the migration of Escherichia coli phage. A comparison of different cation valence tests indicated that changes in transport and deposition were more pronounced with divalent Ca2+ than monovalent Na+. As the flow rate increases, the release of Escherichia coli phage increases and the retention of Escherichia coli phage in the aquifer medium reduces. Changes in porous media had a significant effect on Escherichia coli phage migration. With increase of phosphate buffer concentration, the suspension stability and migration ability of Escherichia coli phage are both increased. Based on laboratory-scale column experiments, a one-dimensional transport model was established to quantitatively describe the virus transport in saturated porous medium.

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Complex Hamaker constant for colloidal virus-water-glass beads, 7.50E-21 (kg m2/s2).

A s :

Porosity-dependent flow parameter

C :

Concentration of biocolloids in suspension, M/L3.

d c :

Average collector diameter, 0.45 mm.

d p :

Virus particle diameter, 160 nm.

D :

Hydrodynamic dispersion coefficient, L2/t.

i :

Subscript indicates colloidal virus

k B :

Boltzman’s constant, 1.38E-23(kg m2)/(s2 K).

L :

Length of the packed column, 10 cm.

M r(i) :

The mass recovery of colloidal virus.

M r(t) :

The mass recovery of tracer.

N A :

Attraction number

N G :

Gravity number

N Pe :

Peclet number

N R :

Relative size number

N vdw :

Van der Waals number

q :

Specific discharge or approach velocity


the ratio of M r(i) to M r(t)

t :

Time, t.

T :

Temperature, 283 K.

U :

Interstitial (pore water flow) velocity, L/t.

ε θ :

Equal to (1 − θ)1/3

η 0 :

Single-collector removal efficiency for favorable deposition, (−).

θ :

Porosity of porous medium volume, L3/L3.

μ w :

Water viscosity, 8.91E-04 kg/(m·s).

ρ p :

Particle density,1690 kg/m3

ρ f :

Fluid density,999.7 kg/m3

g :

Acceleration due to gravity 9.81 m/s2


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The data used in the study will be provided to the corresponding author. The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial supports by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41472215). We would like to thank the support provided by the “985 Project” of Jilin University as well as the journal editors for valuable comments that have improved the paper considerably. The authors thank the support from College of Veterinary Medicine for great help with culture of virus and other work.

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Correspondence to Wenjing Zhang.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Zhang, W., Li, S., Wang, S. et al. Transport of Escherichia coli phage through saturated porous media considering managed aquifer recharge. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 6497–6513 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-0876-3

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  • Groundwater
  • Colloidal virus
  • Escherichia coli phage
  • Column experiment
  • Transport modal
  • Managed aquifer recharge (MAR)