Norwalk-like viruses (NLVs) are important agents of waterborne illness and have been linked to several groundwater-related outbreaks. The presence of human enteric viruses, in particular the presence of NLVs, is difficult to detect in the environment. Consequently, surrogate organisms are typically used as indicators of viruses from faecal contamination. Whether traditional bacterial indicators are reliable indicators for viral pathogens remains uncertain. Few studies have directly compared mobility and reduction of bacterial indicators (e.g. coliforms, Escherichia coli) and other surrogate indicators (coliphages) with pathogenic human viruses in soil systems. In this study the mobility and comparative reduction of the prototype NLV, Norwalk Virus (NV), was compared to poliovirus 1 (PV1), a bacterial indicator (E. coli, EC) and a viral indicator (coliphage MS2) through miniature soil columns. Replicate, 10cm deep, miniature columns were prepared using three soils representing a range of soil textures (sand, organic muck, and clay). Columns were initially conditioned, then incubated at 10-14°C, dosed twice weekly for 8 weeks with one column pore volume of virus-seeded groundwater per dose, followed by 8 weeks of dosing with one column pore volume per dose of unseeded, simulated rainwater. Columns were allowed to drain after each dosing until an effluent volume equivalent to an applied dose was collected. Column effluents and doses were assayed for all viruses and EC. Rapid mobility with minimal reduction was observed for all organisms in the sand. Similar reductions were observed in organic muck for most organisms but NV showed a greater reduction. No organisms were shown to pass through the clay columns. Elution of viruses, in particular PV1, from the columns was gradual. After cessation of microbe dosing, E. coli was less detectable than viruses in column effluents and, therefore, unreliable as a virus indicator.

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