Poultry production in Kentucky increased almost 200% between 1991 and 1995. Their waste is typically land applied, and fecal pathogen runoff and infiltration may cause nonpoint source groundwater pollution. We looked at the preferential flow of fecal coliforms through undisturbed soil blocks since fecal bacteria typically infiltrate the soil profile to contaminate groundwater. Poultry manure was uniformly distributed on top of sod-covered or tilled (upper 12.5 cm) soil blocks and the blocks were irrigated. Drainage was collected in 100 uniformly spaced cells beneath each block and analyzed for fecal coliform content and drainage volume. The spatial distribution of drainage and fecal coliforms through the soil blocks was not uniform. Fecal coliforms appeared where most drainage flowed. Drainage water from each soil block consistently exceeded 200 000 fecal coliforms per 100 mL and was as great as 30 million fecal coliforms per 100 mL of leachate collected. Fecal coliforms leached as a pulse, but the breakthrough of fecal coliforms through tilled blocks was delayed with respect to the breakthrough of fecal coliforms through sod-covered blocks. Rainfall on a well-structured soil will cause the preferential movement of fecal bacteria, even with unsaturated flow conditions, and could contribute to fecal coliform concentrations in shallow groundwater that exceed standards for domestic discharge and primary contact water in Kentucky (200 fecal coliforms/100 mL).

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Journal of Environmental Quality, v. 27, no. 1, p. 86-92.

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)