More than 70 individual VOCs were identified in the leachate plume of a closed municipal landfill. Concentrations were low when compared with data published for other landfills, and total VOCs accounted for less than 0.1% of the total dissolved organic carbon. The VOC concentrations in the core of the anoxic leachate plume are variable, but in all cases they were found to be near or below detection limits within 200 m of the landfall. In contrast to the VOCs, the distributions of chloride ion, a conservative tracer, and nonvolatile dissolved organic carbon, indicate little dilution over the same distance. Thus, natural attentuation processes are effectively limiting migration of the VOC plume. The distribution of C2-3-benzenes, paired on the basis of their octanol-water partition coefficients and Henry's law constants, were systematically evaluated to assess the relative importance of volatilization, sorption, and biodegradation as attenuation mechanisms. Based on our data, biodegradation appears to be the process primarily responsible for the observed attenuation of VOCs at this site. We believe that the alkylbenzenes are powerful process probes that can and should be exploited in studies of natural attenuation in contaminated ground water systems.
Additional publication details
Natural attenuation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the leachate plume of a municipal landfill: Using alkylbenzenes as process probes