A water-quality study was conducted during 1980-86 at four landfills in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Each landfill has a three-layered hydrogeologic system typical of the Piedmont, consisting of (1) the regolith; (2) a transition zone; and (3) unweathered, fractured crystalline bedrock. As much as 7.6 inches per year of rainfall enters the ground-water system and has the potential to generate leachate within landfill cells. Ground water and leachate discharge to tributaries within the landfill sites or to streams adjacent to them.
Water-quality samples were collected from 53 monitoring wells and 20 surface-water sites. Samples were analyzed for selected physical and biological characteristics, major inorganic ions, nutrients, trace elements, and organic compounds. Selected indicators of water quality, including specific conductance; hardness; and concentrations of chloride, manganese, dissolved solids, total organic carbon, and specific organic compounds were analyzed to determine the effects of each landfill on ground- and surface-water quality.
Increases in concentrations of inorganic constituents above background levels were detected in ground water downgradient of the landfills. The increases were generally greatest in samples from wells in close proximity to the older landfill cells. In general, the increases in concentrations in downgradient wells were greater for calcium, magnesium, and chloride than for other major ions. Manganese exhibited the largest relative increase in concentration between upgradient and downgradient wells of any constituent, and manganese concentration data were effective in defining areas with extensive anaerobic biological activity.
Differences between upgradient and downgradient concentrations of total organic carbon and specific organic compounds generally were not as apparent. The most frequently identified organic contaminants were the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. Chlorofluoromethanes were identified in three of four ground-water samples analyzed for volatile organic compounds.
Landfills affected the water quality of several smaller streams but did not noticeably affect larger ones. Apparent effects on water quality were greatest at the oldest landfill, located on Statesville Road, where waste is in cells that are partly below the water table.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrologic environments and water-quality characteristics at four landfills in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, 1980-86
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ;
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