2021 journal article
Estimation of Saprolite Thickness Needed to Remove E. coli from Wastewater
Applied Sciences, 11(5), 2066.
Saprolite, weathered bedrock, is being used to dispose of domestic sewage through septic system drainfields, but the thickness of saprolite needed to remove biological contaminants is unknown for most saprolites. This study developed and tested a simple method for estimating the thickness of saprolite needed below septic drainlines to filter E. coli from wastewater using estimates of the volume of pores that are smaller than the length of the coliform (≤10 μm). Particle size distribution (texture) and water retention data were obtained for 12 different saprolites from the Piedmont and Mountain regions of North Carolina (N.C.). Saprolite textures ranged from clay loam to coarse sand. The volume of pores with diameters ≤10 μm were determined by water retention measurements for each saprolite. The data were used in an equation to estimate the saprolite thickness needed to filter E. coli. The estimated saprolite thicknesses ranged from 36 cm in the clay loam to 113 cm for the coarse sand. The average thickness across all samples was 58 cm. Saprolite thickness estimates increased as silt percentage decreased and as sand percentage and in situ saturated hydraulic conductivity increased. Silt percentage may be most useful for estimating appropriate saprolite thicknesses in the field.