Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Bacterial and viral pathogen, Soil, Temperature


Soils amended with human or animal waste may result in pathogen contamination of ground and surface water. Because temperature has been shown to affect pathogen survival, two laboratory studies were conducted to evaluate the impact of extremes in temperature on bacterial and viral pathogen indicator die-off in soil. A Captina silt loam was amended with broiler litter (0.1 g/g dry soil), septic tank effluent, or Escherichia coli (ATCC 13706) culture (both at 0.04 and 0.1 mL/g dry soil in the two respective studies), incubated at 5 and 35°C, and analyzed over time to determine the number of fecal coliform, E. coli, and coliphage remaining. Pathogen indicator die-off rate constants (k) for all indicator- temperature-treatment combinations were determined by first-order kinetics. For all three pathogen indicators, die-off was significantly more rapid at 35°C than at 5°C. In both studies, fecal coliform die-off rates were not different from E. coli die-off rates across each temperature-treatment combination. Levels of these bacterial indicators appeared in a ratio of 1:0.94 with 95% confidence intervals at 0.89 and 0.99 in the E. coli- and litter-amended soils. Die-off of the viral indicator was significantly slower than the die-off of the bacterial indicators at 5°C in litter-amended soil. Die-off of the bacterial indicator, E. coli, in soil amended with E. coli culture was not significantly different than die-off in soil amended with broiler litter at 5 or 35°C in the two studies. Because the higher incubation temperature increased die-off rates for all three indicators, it is expected that the potential for contamination of ground and surface water decreases with increasing temperature.

Report Number

PUB 173