Are abandoned landfill sites the reason behind pollution in the UK?

Posted: 28/08/2014

A wetland located in Oxford found itself depositing almost 27 tonnes of ammonium ever year into the River Thames according to information collated by the organisation, Natural Environment Research Council.  According to many scientists, landfill sites around the UK that have been abandoned often distribute polluted chemicals, running into rivers close by.

Port Meadow which is located on the outskirts of Oxford, finds itself dispensing around 27.5 tonnes of ammonium per year which finds its way from the landfill into the River Thames.  Officials fear that it could possibly be happening in multiple sites across the UK.

Water contains ammonium which eventually breaks down into nitrogen; with this extra nitrogen being released it can aggravate excessive plant decay as well as growth. This can damage the quality of water along with starving water species (fish) and other aquatic organisms as they all need the oxygen water provides to live.

Various scientists are mostly alarmed by what are known as “blue-green algal blooms” as these can produce toxins which are more than capable of killing wild animals, livestock and even domestic pets. These toxins can also cause harm to people and cause skin rashes, nausea, stomach pains, fever and headaches.

Dr Daren Gooddy, from the NERC’s British Geological Survey, who has lead the study said;
“We’ve been getting rid of waste for an awful long time,” he then added;  
“Since Victorian times, we’ve been putting it into landfill and ad-hoc waste dumps on the edge of our towns and cities, often on the fringes of floodplains”.

In Port Meadow alone there are rumoured to be around 11 landfill sites. Towards the northwest of Oxford, Port Meadow sits upon the banks of the River Thames. This area in particular is most popular with tourists such as birdwatchers and walkers however; now and again the odd flood during the winter period tends to attract spectacular flocks of wildfowl as well as waders.

The above visitors make their own contribution of ammonium towards the floodplain, due to using the open wetland as an open-air toilet. In order to obtain a measurement of different chemicals/materials and the amount moving through the plains, teams drill a job lot of boreholes and regularly take water samples over a three year period between May 2010 and August 2013.

Using a chemical fingerprinting technique called isotopic analysis, the team of officials were able to designate a measure of 27.5 tonnes of ammonium towards household waste. Over past decades nutrient pollution has been a growing concern. Fertilisers containing large amounts of nitrate and phosphate are usually used on farmland up and down the country in order to boost crop growth. Much of this would eventually find its own way into rivers, thus allowing it to wreak havoc on ecosystems resulting in the cost being raised for water quality treatment so it is suitable for human consumption.

To minimize the risk of chemicals leaking out into the environment, most landfills are today lined with a layer of clay. However, around the UK, there are without a doubt a large number of landfills that are not lined which could be continuously leaking excessive amounts of nitrogen into major rivers.

Gooddy stated;
“It’s a scenario likely to be repeated throughout the developed world. Collectively, this contribution to overall ammonium concentrations in rivers could be very high. It’s something that really ought to be taken into account when we’re drawing up management plans for floodplains on the margins of towns and cities”.

Nicole Cran, Pali Ltd

(0) Comments Economy, UK, Landfill, Pollution

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