Spatial and temporal migration of a landfill leachate plume in alluvium

Water, Air, & Soil Pollution
By:  and 



Leachate from unlined or leaky landfills can create groundwater contaminant plumes that last decades to centuries. Understanding the dynamics of leachate movement in space and time is essential for monitoring, planning and management, and assessment of risk to groundwater and surface-water resources. Over a 23.4-year period (1986–2010), the spatial extent of the Norman Landfill leachate plume increased at a rate of 7800 m2/year and expanded by 878 %, from an area of 20,800 m2 in 1986 to 203,400 m2 in 2010. A linear plume velocity of 40.2 m/year was calculated that compared favorably to a groundwater-seepage velocity of 55.2 m/year. Plume-scale hydraulic conductivity values representative of actual hydrogeological conditions in the alluvium ranged from 7.0 × 10−5 to 7.5 × 10−4 m/s, with a median of 2.0 × 10−4 m/s. Analyses of field-measured and calculated plume-scale hydraulic conductivity distributions indicate that the upper percentiles of field-measured values should be considered to assess rates of plume-scale migration, spreading, and biodegradation. A pattern of increasing Cl concentrations during dry periods and decreasing Cl concentrations during wet periods was observed in groundwater beneath the landfill. The opposite occurred in groundwater downgradient from the landfill; that is, Cl concentrations in groundwater downgradient from the landfill decreased during dry periods and increased during wet periods. This pattern of changing Clconcentrations in response to wet and dry periods indicates that the landfill retains or absorbs leachate during dry periods and produces lower concentrated leachate downgradient. During wet periods, the landfill receives more recharge which dilutes leachate in the landfill but increases leachate migration from the landfill and produces a more concentrated contaminant plume. This approach of quantifying plume expansion, migration, and concentration during variable hydrologic conditions provides increased understanding of plume behavior and migration potential and may be applied at less monitored landfill sites to evaluate potential risks of contamination to downgradient receptors.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Spatial and temporal migration of a landfill leachate plume in alluvium
Series title Water, Air, & Soil Pollution
DOI 10.1007/s11270-014-2261-x
Volume 226
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Oklahoma Water Science Center, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description Article 18; 15 p.
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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