The physical transport of Escherichia coli in terrestrial environments may require control to prevent its dissemination from potential high-density sources, such as confined animal feedlot operations. Biobarriers, wherein convective flows carrying pathogens pass through a porous matrix with high retentive capacity, may present one such approach. Eight environmental E coli isolates were selected to conduct operational retention tests (ORT) with potential biobarrier materials Pyrax or dolomite, or silica glass as control. The conditions in the ORT were chosen to simulate conditioning by manure solutes, a pulse application of a bacterial load followed by rainfall infiltration, and natural drainage. Removal was limited, and likely caused by the relatively high velocities during drainage, and the conditioning of otherwise favorable adhesion sites. Flagella-mediated motility showed the strongest correlation to biobarrier retention. Significant variability was observed across the E coli isolates, but consistently higher retention was observed for cells with external versus intestinal pregrowth histories. E coli 0157: H7 was retained the least with all examined matrices, while E coli K-12 displayed moderate retention and may not serve as representative model strain. Pyrax is a good candidate biobarrier material given its superior removal ability across the tested E coli strains.