Persistence of viruses in desert soils amended with anaerobically digested sewage sludge

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Pima County, Ariz., is currently investigating the potential benefits of land application of sewage sludge. To assess risks associated with the presence of pathogenic enteric viruses present in the sludge, laboratory studies were conducted to measure the inactivation rate (k = log10 reduction per day) of poliovirus type 1 and bacteriophages MS2 and PRD-1 in two sludge-amended desert agricultural soils (Brazito Sandy Loam and Pima Clay Loam). Under constant moisture (approximately -0.05 x 105 Pa for both soils) and temperatures of 15, 27, and 40°C, the main factors controlling the inactivation of these viruses were soil temperature and texture. As the temperature increased from 15 to 40°C, the inactivation rate increased significantly for poliovirus and MS2, whereas, for PRD-1, a significant increase in the inactivation rate was observed only at 40°C. Clay loam soils afforded more protection to all three viruses than sandy soils. At 15°C, the inactivation rate for MS2 ranged from 0.366 to 0.394 log10 reduction per day in clay loam and sandy loam soils, respectively. At 27°C, this rate increased to 0.629 log10 reduction per day in clay loam soil and to 0.652 in sandy loam soil. A similar trend was observed for poliovirus at 15°C (k = 0.064 log10 reduction per day, clay loam; k = 0.095 log10 reduction per day, sandy loam) and 27°C (k = 0.133 log10 reduction per day, clay loam; k = 0.154 log10 reduction per day, sandy loam). Neither MS2 nor poliovirus was recovered after 24 h at 40°C. No reduction of PRD-1 was observed after 28 days at 15°C and after 16 days at 27°C. At 40°C, the inactivation rates were 0.208 log10 reduction per day in amended clay loam soil and 0.282 log10 reduction per day in sandy loam soil. Evaporation to less than 5% soil moisture completely inactivated all three viruses within 7 days at 15°C, within 3 days at 27°C, and within 2 days at 40°C regardless of soil type. This suggests that a combination of high soil temperature and rapid loss of soil moisture will significantly reduce risks caused by viruses in sludge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)636-641
Number of pages6
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1992


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Microbiology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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