Skip to main content
Virus Transport during Infiltration of a Wetting Front into Initially Unsaturated Sand Columns
Environmental Science & Technology (2008)
  • Andrew B. Kenst, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • Edmund Perfect, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • Steven W. Wilhelm, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • Jie Zhuang, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • John F. McCarthy, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • Larry McKay, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
We investigated the effect of different flow conditions on the transport of bacteriophage X174 in Memphis aquifer sand. Virus transport associated with a wetting front moving into an initially unsaturated horizontal sand column was experimentally compared with that observed under steady-state saturated vertical flow. Results obtained by sectioning the sand columns show that total (retained and free) resident virus concentrations decreased approximately exponentially with the travel distance. The rate of decline was similar under both transient unsaturated flow and steady-state saturated flow conditions. Total resident virus concentrations near the inlet were an order of magnitude greater than the virus concentration of the influent solution in both experiments, indicating continuous virus sorption during flow through this zone. Virus retardation was quantified using the ratio of the centroids of the relative saturation and virus concentration versus relative distance functions. The mean retardation factors were 6.43 (coefficient of variation, CV = 14.4%) and 8.22 (CV = 8.22%) for the transient unsaturated and steady-state saturated flow experiments, respectively. A t test indicated no significant difference between these values at P < 0.05. Air–water and air–water−solid interfaces are thought to enhance virus inactivation and sorption to solid particles. The similar retardation factors obtained may be attributable to the reduced presence of these interfaces in the two flow systems investigated as compared to steady-state unsaturated flow experiments in which these interfaces occur throughout the entire column.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Andrew B. Kenst, Edmund Perfect, Steven W. Wilhelm, Jie Zhuang, et al.. "Virus Transport during Infiltration of a Wetting Front into Initially Unsaturated Sand Columns" Environmental Science & Technology Vol. 42 Iss. 4 (2008)
Available at: