This study was carried out to compare the adsorption and survival of faecal coliforms, somatic coliphages and F-specific RNA phages in soil irrigated with wastewater. Adsorption isotherms showed that 3-10× more faecal coliforms than somatic coliphages were adsorbed from wastewater onto soil. The adsorption behavior of F-specific RNA phages was intermediate between those of these two microorganisms. In wastewater, the inactivation factor of somatic coliphages at 8-22°C was 5-7 lower than those of faecal coliforms. F-specific RNA phages have a decrease close to faecal coliforms. In soil, at temperatures of 8-22°C and at moistures of 15-35%, somatic coliphages survived longer than the two other microorganisms. These results seemed to be confirmed by the soil column experiments. The rate of inactivation of all microorganisms was lower in soil than in wastewater and depended extensively on soil temperature and moisture content. Survival was optimal at low temperature (8°C) and low moisture content (15%). Thus, somatic coliphages seemed to be a better indicator of faecal contamination than faecal coliforms under our experimental conditions and based only on the two criteria tested (survival and adsorption). Somatic coliphages were able to contaminate the soil over greater distances and survive better in both wastewater and soil than faecal coliforms. These results need to be confirmed by studies on several soil columns using different kinds of soil and different kinds of wastewater.

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