Investigating landfill leachate as a source of trace organic pollutants

Bradley O. Clarke, Tarun Anumol, Morton Barlaz, Shane A. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Landfill leachate samples (n=11) were collected from five USA municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills and analyzed for ten trace organic pollutants that are commonly detected in surface and municipal wastewater effluents (viz., carbamazepine, DEET, fluoxetine, gemfibrozil, PFOA, PFOS, primidone, sucralose, sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim). Carbamazepine, DEET, PFOA and primidone were detected in all leachate samples analyzed and gemfibrozil was detected in samples from four of the five-landfill sites. The contaminants found in the highest concentrations were DEET (6900-143000ngL-1) and sucralose (<10-621000ngL-1). Several compounds were not detected (fluoxetine) or detected infrequently (sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim and PFOS). Using the average mass of DEET in leachate amongst the five landfills and scaling the mass release from the five test landfills to the USA population of landfills, an order of magnitude estimate is that over 10000kg DEETyr-1 may be released in leachate. Some pharmaceuticals have similar annual mean discharges to one another, with the estimated annual discharge of carbamazepine, gemfibrozil, primidone equating to 53, 151 and 128kgyear-1. To the authors knowledge, this is the first time that primidone has been included in a landfill leachate study. While the estimates developed in this study are order of magnitude, the values do suggest the need for further research to better quantify the amount of chemicals sent to wastewater treatment facilities with landfill leachate, potential impacts on treatment processes and the significance of landfill leachate as a source of surface water contamination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-275
Number of pages7
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Contaminants of emerging concern
  • DEET
  • Landfill leachate
  • Primidone
  • Sucralose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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