Transport of bacteriophage MS2 and PRD1 in saturated dune sand under suboxic conditions

Luc M. Hornstra*, Jack F. Schijven, Andrea Waade, Gemma Serra Prat, Frank J.C. Smits, Gijsbert Cirkel, Pieter J. Stuyfzand, Gertjan J. Medema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Soil passage of (pretreated) surface water to remove pathogenic microorganisms is a highly efficient process under oxic conditions, reducing microorganism concentrations about 8 log10 within tens of meters. However, under anoxic conditions, it has been shown that removal of microorganisms can be limited very much. Setback distances for adequate protection of natural groundwater may, therefore, be too short if anoxic conditions apply. Because removal of microorganisms under suboxic conditions is unknown, this research investigated removal of bacteriophage MS2 and PRD1 by soil passage under suboxic conditions at field scale. At the field location (dune area), one injection well and six monitoring wells were installed at different depths along three suboxic flow lines, where oxygen concentrations ranged from 0.4 to 1.7 mg/l and nitrate concentrations ranged from 13 to 16 mg/L. PRD1 and MS2 were injected directly at the corresponding depths and their removal in each flow line was determined. The highest bacteriophage removal was observed in the top layer, with about 9 log removal of MS2, and 7 log removal of PRD1 after 16 meters of aquifer transport. Less removal was observed at 12 m below surface, probably due to a higher groundwater velocity in this coarser grained layer. MS2 was removed more effectively than PRD1 under all conditions. Due to short travel times, inactivation of the phages was limited and the reported log removal was mainly associated with attachment of phages to the aquifer matrix. This study shows that attachment of MS2 and PRD1 is similar for oxic and suboxic sandy aquifers, and, therefore, setback distances used for sandy aquifers under oxic and suboxic conditions provide a similar level of safety. Sticking efficiency and the attachment rate coefficient, as measures for virus attachment, were evaluated as a function of the physico-chemical conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-167
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Drinking water
  • Soil passage
  • Suboxic
  • Virus removal


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