A series of flat plate, porous media reactor studies was performed to characterize the development and structure of thick biofilms in porous media and the subsequent effects on porous media hydrodynamics and mass transport variables including average pore velocity, hydrodynamic dispersivity, and (dye tracer) breakthrough curve features. Biofilms composed of either a mucoid strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa or a non-mucoid strain of Ps. aeruginosa were established in the reactors over a 2-3 week period. Analysis of porous media biofilms was performed using a combination of image analysis, photography, microbial vital stains, enumerations, and microscopy. Bulk fluid flow and flow channel distribution in the porous media/biofilm matrix were monitored by imaging a pulse of nigrosine dye. Hydrodynamics of the systems were determined by evaluating fluorescein dye breakthrough curves. Destructive sampling of the flat plate reactors at the end of each study provided additional information on the distribution and cell density of the porous media biofilms. Imaging results indicated the creation and closure of flow channels within the biofilm/porous media matrix for both mucoid and non-mucoid strains. Both systems exhibited accelerated tracer breakthrough and slightly increased hydrodynamic dispersivity as the biofilm matrix developed. Gray scale analysis of nigrosine pulses, along with fluorescein dye studies, suggests that biofilm development transforms the flow regime within the reactor from well defined porous media flow with a symmetric breakthrough curve to a skewed breakthrough curve with accelerated time to breakthrough.

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