Effects of porous media preparation on bacteria transport through laboratory columns

Derick G. Brown, Joseph R. Stencel, Peter R. Jaffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Bacterial and colloid transport experiments related to environmental systems are typically performed in the laboratory, with sand often used as the porous media. In order to prepare the sand, mechanical sieving is frequently used to tighten the sand grain size distribution. However, mechanical sieving has been reported to provide insufficient repeatability between identical colloidal transport experiments. This work examined the deficiencies of mechanical sieving with respect to bacterial transport through sand columns. It was found that sieving with standard brass sieves (1) contaminates the sand with copper and zinc as a linear function of sieving time and (2) inefficiently sizes sand grains below 300μm (the largest size examined in this study) due to rapid clogging of the sieves. A procedure was developed that allows utilization of brass sieves for sizing the sand grains and removes the metal contamination introduced from the sieves. Bacterial transport experiments utilizing this column preparation procedure gave repeatable breakthrough curves. Further examination of the effects of these treatments on bacterial transport showed interesting results. First, it was found that the metal contamination did not affect the clean-bed bacterial transport. Second, it was found that variations of the column flushing procedure did not alter the clean-bed breakthrough of the bacteria, but did alter the inter-particle blocking. Finally, it was found that the shape of the sand grains (oblong vs. rounded) significantly alters the bacterial transport, with the transport being dominated by the smallest dimension of the oblong grains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-114
Number of pages10
JournalWater Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


  • Bacterial transport
  • Blocking effect
  • Colloid filtration theory
  • Mechanical sieving
  • Sand


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