Characterisation of virus transport and attenuation in epikarst using short pulse and prolonged injection multi-tracer testing


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February 2010


Attenuation processes controlling virus fate and transport in the vadose zone of karstified systems can strongly influence groundwater quality. This research compares the breakthrough of two bacteriophage tracers (H40/1 and T7), with contrasting properties, at subsurface monitoring points following application onto an overlying composite sequence of thin organic soil and weathered limestone (epikarst). Short pulse multi-tracer test results revealed that T7 (Source concentration, Co = 1.8 × 106 pfu/mL) and H40/1 (Co = 5.9 × 106 pfu/mL) could reach sampling points 10 m below ground less than 30 min after tracer application. Contrasting deposition rates, determined from simulated tracer responses, reflected the potential of the ground to differentially attenuate viruses. Prolonged application of both T7 (Co = 2.3 × 104 pfu/mL) and H40/1 (Co = 1.3 × 105 pfu/mL) over a five hour period during a subsequent test, in which ionic strength levels observed at monitoring points rose consistently, corresponded to a rapid rise in T7 levels, followed by a gradual decline before the end of tracer injection; this reflected reaction-limited deposition in the system. T7's response contrasted with that of H40/1, whose concentration remained constant over a three hour period before declining dramatically prior to the end of tracer injection. Subsequent application of lower ionic strength tracer-free flush water generated a rapid rise in H40/1 levels and a more gradual release of T7. Results highlight the benefits of employing prolonged injection multi-tracer tests for identifying processes not apparent from conventional short pulse tests. Study findings demonstrate that despite rapid transport rates, the epikarst is capable of physicochemical filtration of viruses and their remobilization, depending on virus type and hydrochemical conditions.


Karst Vadose Zone, Tracer, Breakthrough Curve, Bacteriophage, Attenuation




Water Research, Vol. 44, no. 4 (2010-02-01).