System to Evaluate Movement of Biological Contaminants in Soil

Matthew R. Miller, Nora H. Onstad, Michelle L. Green, William H. Witola, Paul C. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Soil columns have been utilized in hydrology to study vertical solute transfer through porous material for decades. Soil columns are typically designed as open tubes with soil held in place with meshing. While this open design is sufficient for non-hazardous particles, it is not ideal for hazardous biological contaminants that may be harmful to humans. The design of this study features a closed soil column system for use with potentially hazardous biological components. The apparatus is comprised of a mist nozzle, flow-reducing cap, and meshing to simulate rainfall on each soil column. After percolating through the soil, water and contaminants pass through a funnel coupling and discharge tube into a collection container. For additional safety, the soil column design fits within a standard biosafety cabinet for use with hazardous contaminants. Its modular design allows for simple maintenance, water flowrate adjustment, and versatility that encourages use in multiple applications. These soil columns were created to study the vertical flow of pathogens, pesticides, and other biological agents. Further experimentation with various hazardous components will develop a better understanding of their fate and transport in soil. This paper details the construction processes and testing methods to validate the system’s ability to replicate a desired flowrate, which is a precursor to studying the vertical transport of pathogens and other agents through soil.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number33
Number of pages19
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Biological contaminant
  • Pathogen
  • Soil column
  • Vertical transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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