Document Type


Publication Date

January 1975


The increased use of domestic wastewater for irrigation purposes has stimulated a growing practice of sprinkler irrigating from oxidation ponds and other domestic wastewaters. Aerosols generated from these sprinkler irrigation systems may contain potentially hazardous pathogens. Subsequently, the aerosols can contain infective viruses which can be carried through the air to surrounding populations. Thus, a public health hazard can be created by sprinkler irrigating domestic wastewater. This study is an investigation of a means by which the virus decay rate of viruses in aerosols and the potentials hazard of sprinkler irrigation aerosol clouds may be examined. A means of injection of a human and animal virus stimulant, MS-2 bacteriophage, is described. In addition, the factors which are known to effect the survival of viruses in aerosols are discussed. The ambient air factors that are known to effect virus survival and which are discussed include relative humidity, air temperature, solar radiation, and aerosol age. The suspending fluid factors that are known to effect virus survival and which are discussed include dissolved inorganic salt contact, dissolved organic content, filterable solids and pH. The decay rate of the aerosolized MS-2 was measured with an all-glass impinger (AGI-30) when the wind velocity and distance of the sampler from the sprinkler system, and the initial and final concentrations of aerosolized MS-2 virus were known. The aerosol hazard of a domestic wastewater sprinkler irrigation system is defined in terms of the likelihood of infective aerosol particles to be inhaled and penetrate the human lung. Thus, the aerosol hazard is a function of aerosol particle size. The aerosol particle size distribution of the infective aerosol cloud was measured wit the Andersen sampler. A high and homogeneous concentration of the virus in the wastewater was insured by using pressure differentials in the sprinkler irrigation delivery line. By injecting the MS-2 virus into the line at a constant rate along with a tracer, Bacillus subtilus var niger (Bacillus globigii) spores, the decay rate of the virus during airborne exposure to environmental factors could be determined. The decay rate was determined assuming the environmental factors had no affect on the concentration of the tracer. It was proposed that the environmental engineer, after knowing the virus decay rates under varying environmental conditions, can define buffer zones which would be required around sprinkler irrigation sites. The buffer zone would reduce the possibility of contaminating humans by prohibiting access. The usefulness of the filed technique was demonstrated and the MS-2 was found to undergo a 33.3 percent decay per minute in the dark (no solar radiation) at 33 percent relative humidity, 70.6 percent dissolved organic material, 29.4 percent dissolved inorganic salts, 30.1 mg/1 filterable solids, and 17 degree C air temperature. The aerosol cloud resulting from the spray irrigation process appeared potentially hazardous because the Andersen sampler collected 84.2 percent of the virus infective droplets in the size range that could be inhaled.