Landfill leachates are potentially polluting liquids that are generated from water that drains or filters through solid waste disposal sites or landfills. If they are allowed to enter the surface or groundwater network, these leachates can have a hazardous impact on public health.

In order to control this risk it is important to carry out routine monitoring and testing on leachates from all types of landfills. Hazardous and non-hazardous landfills may produce leachates with elevated concentrations of contaminants, such as ammoniacal nitrogen, heavy metals and organic compounds. These could also include legacy and emerging contaminants, that are now being targeted at very low concentration and often termed micro-pollutants.

Understanding the risks from leachates

The age of a landfill has a significant impact on pollutants it can contain. Pollutants such as cosmetics, industrial compounds, pharmaceuticals, perfumes, waterproofing agents, insulating foams, plasticizers and drugs could all potentially be included. In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Environment Agency have been focussing on understanding the risks posed by these active and legacy sites in terms of their potential contribution to the health of surface and groundwaters.

This has been in the context of the Water Framework Directive initially looking at Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) with surveys starting in 2019. More recently, they have been expanding this to include emerging substances and a range of other chemicals.


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Our deep expertise in landfill leachate analysis

RPS has deep expertise in providing support on large scale and complex surveys for landfill leachate analysis. We can provide analysis for both routine monitoring, scoping and R&D activities. Our services are used by regulators and consultants as well as operators and other laboratories and universities. The analysis we provide is often complex and requires large capital investment in high end instrumentation. The samples we collect are typically dirty and consist of a blend of organic and inorganic products.

We can provide routine and custom solutions to monitor micro-pollutants at incredibly low levels within realistic timescales, allowing our clients to concentrate on meeting their output targets. We are confident that we can supply and deliver robust data that can be relied on for making key regulatory decisions. Many of our results feed into national policy and help guide future research activities which we are extremely proud of.

The typical parameters that are requested for routine chemistry include:

  • Heavy Metals
  • Biological Oxygen Demand
  • Chemical Oxygen Demand
  • Total Organic Carbon & Dissolved Organic Carbon
  • Ammonia
  • Nitrate/Nitrite
  • Chlorides,
  • Sulphate
  • Sulphide
  • Cyanide
  • Total Solids & Suspended Solids
  • Conductivity
  • pH
  • Oxygen Reduction Potential

We can also offer specialist analysis of leachates that include: 

Emerging contaminants/Priority Pollutants
  • Herbicides
  • Pesticides
  • fungicides
  • Antimicrobials (triclosan)
  • Surfactants (nonylphenols, octyl phenols)
  • PFAS
  • Dechloranes
  • Siloxanes
  • Chlorinated naphthalene
  • Chlorinated paraffins
  • Phthalates
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons PAHs
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Polychlorinated terphenyls PCBs and PCTs
  • Brominated Diphenyl Ethers PBDEs
  • Dioxins and Furans
  • Phenols
  • VOCs
  • Antibiotics (amoxicillin, erythromycin, etc)
  • Antidepressants and antianxiety drugs (propranolol, sertraline)
  • Diabetic drugs (metformin)
  • Analgesics (ibuprofen)
  • Steroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Cancer treatment drugs

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Our clients

  • Atkins
  • Phoenix Engineering
    Phoenix Engineering
  • Environment Agency UK
    Environment Agency UK
  • The Department for Food and Rural Affairs
    The Department for Food and Rural Affairs

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