Transport behaviors of unidentified flagellated protozoa (flagellates) and flagellate-sized carboxylated microspheres in sandy, organically contaminated aquifer sediments were investigated in a small-scale (1 to 4-m travel distance) natural-gradient tracer test on Cape Cod and in flow-through columns packed with sieved (0.5-to 1.0-mm grain size) aquifer sediments. The minute (average in situ cell size, 2 to 3 ??m) flagellates, which are relatively abundant in the Cape Cod aquifer, were isolated from core samples, grown in a grass extract medium, labeled with hydroethidine (a vital eukaryotic stain), and coinjected into aquifer sediments along with bromide, a conservative tracer. The 2-??m flagellates appeared to be near the optimal size for transport, judging from flowthrough column experiments involving a polydispersed (0.7 to 6.2 ??m in diameter) suspension of carboxylated microspheres. However, immobilization within the aquifer sediments accounted for a log unit reduction over the first meter of travel compared with a log unit reduction over the first 10 m of travel for indigenous, free-living groundwater bacteria in earlier tests. High rates of flagellate immobilization in the presence of aquifer sediments also was observed in the laboratory. However, immobilization rates for the laboratory-grown flagellates (initially 4 to 5 ??m) injected into the aquifer were not constant and decreased noticeably with increasing time and distance of travel. The decrease in propensity for grain surfaces was accompanied by a decrease in cell size, as the flagellates presumably readapted to aquifer conditions. Retardation and apparent dispersion were generally at least twofold greater than those observed earlier for indigenous groundwater bacteria but were much closer to those observed for highly surface active carboxylated latex microspheres. Field and laboratory results suggest that 2- ??m carboxylated microspheres may be useful as analogs in investigating several abiotic aspects of flagellate transport behavior in groundwater.
Additional publication details
Transport behavior of groundwater protozoa and protozoan-sized microspheres in sandy aquifer sediments