- The filtration of phi X 174, MS2, and T4 bacteriophages out of tap water and secondary effluents was performed by rapid sand filtration. The viruses were characterized, and the influence of their microscopic characteristics on filterability was examined by comparing retention values, residence times, attachment, and dispersion coefficients calculated from an advection–dispersion model and residence time variation. The only factor observed to influence retention was virus size, such that the larger the virus, the better the retention. The difference was due to the more effective transport of viruses inside the media, an observation that runs counter to currently accepted filtration theory. Cake formation on top of the filter during the initial stages of secondary effluent filtration significantly increased headloss, eventually resulting in shorter filtration cycles. However, deep filters contain buffering zones where the pressure drop is amortized, thus allowing for continued filtration. After the effluent passed through the buffer zone, regular filtration was observed, during which considerable virus retention was achieved.