The aim of the present study was to estimate the performance of slow sand filtration (SSF) facilities, including the time needed for reaching stabilization (maturation), operated with surface water bearing high fecal contamination, representing realistic conditions of rivers in many emerging countries. Surface water spiked with wastewater was infiltrated at different pore water velocities (PWV) and samples were collected at different migration distances. The samples were analyzed for phages and to a lesser extent for fecal bacteria and enteric adenoviruses. At the PWV of 50 cm/d, at which somatic phages showed highest removal, their mean log10 removal after 90 cm migration was 3.2. No substantial differences of removal rates were observed at PWVs between 100 and 900 cm/d (2.3 log10 mean removal). The log10 mean removal of somatic phages was less than the observed for fecal bacteria and tended more towards that of enteric adenoviruses This makes somatic phages a potentially better process indicator than Escherichia coli for the removal of viruses in SSF. We conclude that SSF, and by inference in larger scale river bank filtration (RBF), is an excellent option as a component in multi-barrier systems for drinking water treatment also in areas where the sources of raw water are considerably fecally polluted, as often found in many emerging countries.

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