Hydrophobic and hydrophilic fractions were isolated from a compost leachate. The adsorption isotherms of both fractions on alumina were measured by attenuated total reflectance infrared spectroscopy. The shapes of the adsorption isotherms of the two fractions were different. The isotherms for the hydrophilic fraction showed little change in surface excess with increasing solution concentration above 4 mg L-1. The isotherms for the hydrophobic fraction, on the other hand, displayed a marked increase in surface excess with increasing solution concentration. This increase is evidence for the formation of aggregates (admicelles or hemimicelles) on the alumina surface. Linear dichroism calculations indicated that more of the carboxylate groups in the adsorbed hydrophobic molecules than in the absorbed hydrophilic fraction were free to rotate. The hindered rotation of the carboxylate groups in the adsorbed hydrophilic-fraction molecules probably indicates that these groups are bound to surface aluminum ions by a bidentate mechanism in which the two oxygen atoms of a single carboxylate group bind to separate aluminum ions.