Leachate : a chemical soup
Leachate is a chemical soup and a threat not only for environment, but also for human beings.
There is one commodity which is essential to the very existence of life on earth.
Every ecosystem depends on it, from the boreal tundra in Alaska to the great Amazon rainforest. It’s in the air you breathe and in your body; it transports soil nutrients to river deltas and all the way out into the oceans. Water is the lifeblood of our planet and everything depend on its slow but never-ending journey across the world. All that is around us, even the very ground upon which we tread is washed clean by rainfall and swept away. It seeps through the uppermost soil-layers and eventually ends up in the massive groundwater reserves bellow.
Unfortunately, due to the very nature of water itself – other, more harmful particles such as chemical compounds and industrial waste from mines and landfills may also be dissolved or suspended. And the industrialized world we live in provides ample opportunities for pollution to occur.
Guidelines exist of course, for proper disposal of old electronics, PCB-coated hulls and truckloads of plastics. But regulations barely manage to supervise the official market -and large areas of the world remain unseen by those who wish for legislation. Predominantly developing countries are burdened by the enormous amount of toxic waste produced in the developed world -countries badly equipped for the job.
Leachate is a term mostly unknown to the lay-man, but widely used in the environmental sciences and waste-management. It describes the phenomena of water pollution, often in conjuncture with landfills or mining operations. Depending on the type of landfill, anything from fecal matter to heavy metals and inorganic compounds such as: calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, ammonium, iron and sulphate can leach out into nearby ground-water supplies. Municipal “solid waste” landfills typically generates a “chemical soup” so concentrated that even small amounts may be cause for concern if exposed to water.
Even with the existing regulations accidents occur -such as the one in East Taphouse, Connonbridge landfill two years ago. An unknown amount of liquid poured out into nearby streams and algae in the water turned bright orange as a result. The site had been in use since 1969 (44 years) with a 22-year extension coming up. Most likely the lowest layer of liner (usually a layer of clay) meant to prevent leachate from leaving the landfill was falling apart from neglect.
Our fresh-water reserves are not infinite and climate change-related droughts are steadily diminishing what we have. Taking care of our water-supplies must be a top-priority, especially in areas of industrial activity such as mining or garbage-disposal. But the responsibility for a better tomorrow lies within the consumer-sphere as well. We can no longer ignore easy-to-do tasks such as sorting waste before disposal and recycling garbage in a responsible manner.
Mark Giannelli, October 2015
Rebin Do More Than Waste ©