Present and long-term composition of MSW landfill leachate: A review

Peter Kjeldsen, M.A. Barlaz, A.P. Rooker, Anders Baun, Anna Ledin, Thomas Højlund Christensen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The major potential environmental impacts related to landfill leachate are pollution of groundwater and surface waters. Landfill leachate contains pollutants that can be categorized into four groups (dissolved organic matter, inorganic macrocomponents, heavy metals, and xenobiotic organic compounds). Existing data show high leachate concentrations of all components in the early acid phase due to strong decomposition and leaching. In the long methanogenic phase a more stable leachate, with lower concentrations and a low BOD/COD-ratio, is observed. Generally, very low concentrations of heavy metals are observed. In contrast, the concentration of ammonia does not decrease, and often constitutes a major long-term pollutant in leachate. A broad range of xenobiotic organic compounds is observed in landfill leachate. The long-term behavior of landfills with respect to changes in oxidation-reduction status is discussed based on theory and model simulations. It seems that the somewhere postulated enhanced release of accumulated heavy metals would not take place within the time frames of thousands of years. This is supported by a few laboratory investigations. The existing data and model evaluations indicate that the xenobiotic organic compounds in most cases do not constitute a major long-term problem. This may suggest that ammonia will be of most concern in the long run.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Reviews in Environmental Science & Technology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)297-336
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • dissolved organic matter
  • toxicological testing
  • ammonia
  • waste disposal
  • heavy metals
  • xenobiotic organic compound


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