Strong release of viruses in fracture flow in response to a perturbation in ionic strength: Filtration/retention tests and modeling.
Costantino Masciopinto, Fabrizio Visino.
Water Research, 2017

Abstract

Effluents derived from a municipal wastewater treatment plant were used for virus filtration/retention experiments by using a horizontal laboratory filter. Filtration tests were performed to examine how soil geochemical heterogeneity and fracture patterns affected the transport of viruses in groundwater in order to model the influence of reductive perturbations in ionic strength (IS) during wastewater filtration. Although perturbations of IS and velocity are known to result in resuspension of colloids, we found that the effect of soil geochemical heterogeneity can produce strong and instantaneous virus releases in fractured aquifers, likely an internal additional source of viruses. Sixteen limestone slabs were packed in a PVC box filter at the Bari Laboratory (South Italy) to replicate wastewater filtration throughout a fractured medium similar to the Bari carbonate aquifer. Terra rossa, which is an aggregate of sand, silt and clay, was unevenly spread on the surface of each limestone slab within the filter. Since the mineralogical composition of terra rossa includes iron (hematite, magnetite, and goethite) oxides, the soil exhibited localized unfavorable colloid/collector interactions for attachment. In contrast, soil-free parts of the fracture surfaces maintained favorable colloid/collector interactions. We found in our experiments that the lowering of IS due to the reduction of water salt content, which could occur during runoff injections after rainfall, might be sufficient to cause strong detachment of viruses from fracture surfaces, allowing further migration into the groundwater. The model in this work can predict the count and pathways of released viruses in groundwater fractures under soil geochemical heterogeneity and originated by reductions of IS, by using analytical solutions..

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