Physical versus chemical effects on bacterial and bromide transport as determined from on site sediment column pulse experiments

J. A. Hall, B. J. Mailloux, T. C. Onstott, T. D. Scheibe, M. E. Fuller, H. Dong, M. F. DeFlaun

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19 Scopus citations


Twenty-eight bacterial and Br transport experiments were performed in the field to determine the effects of physical and chemical heterogeneity of the aquifer sediment. The experiments were performed using groundwater from two field locations to examine the effects of groundwater chemistry on transport. Groundwater was extracted from multilevel samplers and pumped through 7-cm-long columns of intact sediment or repacked sieved and coated or uncoated sediment from the underlying aquifer. Two bacterial strains, Comamonas sp. DA001 and Paenibacillus polymyxa FER-02, were injected along with Br into the influent end of columns to examine the effect of cell morphology and cell surface properties on bacterial transport. The effects of column sediment grain size and mineral coatings coupled with groundwater geochemistry were also investigated. Significant irreversible attachment of DA001 was observed in the Fe oxyhydroxide-coated columns, but only in the suboxic groundwater where the concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) were ca. 1 ppm. In the oxic groundwater where DOC was ca. 8 ppm, little attachment of DA001 to the Fe oxyhydroxide-coated columns was observed. This indicates that DOC can significantly reduce bacterial attachment due electrostatic interactions. The larger and more negatively charged FER-02 displayed increasing attachment with decreasing grain size regardless of DOC concentration, and modeling of FER-02 attachment revealed that the presence of Fe and Al coatings on the sediment also promoted attachment. Finally, the presence of Al coatings and Al containing minerals appeared to significantly retard the Br tracer regardless of the concentration of DOC. These findings suggest that DOC in shallow oxic groundwater aquifers can significantly enhance the transport of bacteria by reducing attachment to Fe, Mn and Al oxyhydroxides. This effect appears to be profound for weakly and strongly charged hydrophilic bacteria and may contribute to differences in observations between laboratory experiments versus field-scale investigations particularly if the groundwater pH remains subneutral and Fe oxyhydroxide phases exist. These observation validate the novel approach taken in the experiments outlined here of performing laboratory-scale experiments on site to facilitate the use of fresh groundwater and thus be more representative of in situ groundwater conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-314
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Chemistry


  • Bacterial transport
  • Br retardation
  • Chemical effects
  • Physical effects


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