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Impact of Landfill on Soil and Water Quality

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Added on: 2022-11-30 10:45:09
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On sites with a history of garbage disposal, landfills are the reconstruction of natural terrestrial ecosystems. In terms of age, waste composition, engineering design, and ecological practise, they are both common and distinctive. The development of plants is hampered by unfavourable pedoclimatic conditions present in the landfill cover soil, such as gas issues, shallow soil, nutrient deficiencies, high temperatures, and leachate contamination. Groundwater pollution is frequently caused by solid waste landfills. It is very likely that landfill garbage will produce leachate that is highly polluted. The timeframe is sometimes defined in decades or centuries, even for small landfills. One of the most important geotechnical concerns in landfill management is the stability of landfills. The Leuwigajah dumpsite in Indonesia, which was the second deadliest garbage slide in history due to inadequate landfill management, buried 71 homes and killed 143 people despite being preventable. I wish to investigate and analyse in this essay how a landfill impacts the soil and water quality of a certain location. Although they are not the same thing, soil and water quality are strongly related. The condition of the soil in relation to the needs of one or more biotic species and/or any human need or purpose may be measured as soil quality. Water quality is defined as the chemical, physical, and biological properties of water that support the usage criteria. In the past, landfills were locations where material was dumped in pits, which were then filled with earth once full. The population has significantly grown in the twenty-first century, necessitating proper waste management. In India, 20,000 metric tonnes (22,000 tonnes) of e-waste are processed annually by tens of thousands of workers at scrap yards. These facilities burn electronic garbage, frequently in dangerous and unmanaged ways that let heavy metals like lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), and cadmium (Cd) into the air. Additionally, the metals can bioaccumulate in the food chain and cause major health issues if they end up in water or sediment. The aim of the essay is to explore the impact of landfills on both these aspects, i.e. soil and water. I personally chose this topic because I have always wondered what it's like living next to a landfill and how that might affect your lifestyle and surroundings and therefore, I will also cover this aspect in my essay. With increase in globalisation, there has been a constant increase in the global population and hence also the global pollution and now more than ever, waste management has become very integral. Landfills are the most commonly used method of waste management because they provide the cheapest resort out of the other methods and can also be found anywhere. Residents of developing countries, particularly the urban poor, are more adversely affected by unsustainable garbage management than citizens of developed countries. Over 90% of waste is frequently dumped in uncontrolled dumps or burned outdoors in low-income countries. These actions have negative effects on the environment, public safety, and health. The cost of efficient garbage management typically accounts for 20% to 50% of municipal budgets. Implementing an integrated and sustainable management strategy that assures the well-being of society and the environment as well as the active engagement of society is the best way to deal with the solid waste sector.

Background information

Delhi's Okhla landfill is a place where waste is dumped. The site, which covers 40 acres, was established in 1996 for the benefit of South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC). Despite the Okhla Landfill being declared exhausted in 2010, 1,200 tonnes of the 3,500 tonnes of waste that SDMC collects every day were still being placed there. The site was finally deactivated in 2018 after growing to a height of 55 metres, triple the permitted limit. The civic organisation currently wants to finish remediating the Okhla landfill within 1.5 years in order to turn it into a green cover.

Data collection

I collected this data primarily using different distance points namely at the site of the landfill, 1 kilometres away and two kilometres away. This helped get obtain a range of different samples with different characteristics that helped me compare and contrast the data better. I then conducted various different tests at my school lab for varied parameters of the samples to compare my results. Lastly, I analysed these results to complete my research. I also went beyond this and compared my research to that of an other study. I also disposed the samples I collected during my research in different hazardous bins to avoid the contamination of both soil and water due to the chemicals in the sample. My sample might not be highly reliable because there might also be other factors affecting the quality of both water and soil near and at the landfill.

Soil samples


Calcium carbonate


At the landfill






1 km away






2 km away






Water samples


Total dissolved solids(mg/l)

PH value


At the landfill







1 km away







2 km away







The acceptable limit for water samples as per IS 10500-2012

Total dissolved solids(mg/l)

500 maximum

PH value

6.50 to 8.5


250 maximum


1.0 maximum


0.3 maximum

Total hardness(CaCO3) mg/l

200 maximum


The results very clearly show us how the quality of both soil and water is very poor at the site of the landfill and gets better as we move away from it. We can further analyse these results by examining the different parameters individually.

There is a very evident change in the quality of both water and soil from the different distance points. This might be due to the effect of the waste dumped in the landfill because the quality is worst at the landfill and becomes better as the distance from the landfill increases. The results from the lab tests clearly show us how the landfill has affected the soil and water quality.

Soil pH is a measure of the soil's acidity or alkalinity. The ph level of soil is alkaline at the landfill as it is 7.9. The ideal ph value of soil should be between 5.5 and 7.5 to make most mineral nutrients available to the plants. The amount of nutrients and other substances that are soluble in soil water and hence available to plants are dependent on the pH of the soil. It also impacts the functioning of the microorganisms that cause the breaking down of organic material and conductmajority of soil chemical reactions. This means that due to the poor ph of the soil, there might not be enough nutrients available to the plants and the functioning of the microorganisms might not take place properly. There is also a change in the ph value as the distance from the landfill increases explaining how the soil distant from the landfill might be better for the growth of plants and microorganic activity.

Carbonate, most frequently calcium carbonate, typically dominates soils with increased pH levels, especially above 7. The soil at the landfill also has a good concentration of CACO3 because of the ph level being 7.9

Any material produced subsequently by life forms (plants or animals) and returned to the soil where it undergoes the decomposition process is referred to as soil organic matter. Upon decomposition, organic matter releases nutrients in a form that is usable for plants. The rate of organic matter added from crop residues, manure, and any other sources must be equal to the rate of decomposition, taking into consideration the rate of uptake by plants, and account for losses due to leaching and erosion in order to maintain this nutrient cycle system. The amount of organic matter present at the site of the landfill is very poor. This would disrupt the basic functions caused by organic matter in the soil and hence lead to improper functioning of the soil cycle. The percentage of the organic matter in the soil increases when we take the other two distance points. The impact of the landfill can be seen on the condition of the soil present at the landfill. Processes like leaching that contaminate the soil using the waste dumped in the landfill have serious effects on the soil present and lead to erosion of the soil. Organic matter is also necessary in improving the soil aggregation of the soil and in turn improve the structing of the soil. Due to the poor percentage of organic matter present in the soil at the site of the landfill, the structuring of the soil might be disrupted and the soil will have unsatisfactory water infiltration that would affect the water holding capacity of the soil.

Most critically, chloride behaves somewhat like a "free agent" in soil. It takes a lot of effort to precipitate out. It doesn't assimilate to clay colloid, organic materials, or other soil particles. In the soil solution, it simply floats. As a result, it actually leaches swiftly when there is a lot of precipitation. The plant exhibits considerable intelligence when absorbing chloride from the soil. They help the plants in the process of osmoregulation and due to the unsatisfactory amount of chloride present in the soil, the uptake by the plants will be significantly less and would lead to improper functioning of the plants grown of such soil.

Sulphate is present in nearly every soil. It helps the plant in the production of amino acids that ultimately lead to the growth of the plant. The soil has a poor percentage of sulphate at the site of the landfill and is hence not suitable for the growth of plants on that soil. There would be very less amount of sulphate available in the soil for the uptake by plants and will hence lead to improper growth of the plant.

The water samples that I took from the landfill have a ph value of 9.432 which is over the acceptable limit of water. The acceptable limit for drinking water ranges from a ph level between 6.5 and 8.5. The ph value of the water at the landfill hence does not even qualify to be drinkable. We can see the effect of the landfill on the state of the water. the leaching from the landfill by the waste dumped contaminates the water and hence affects both soil and water to a very large extent at the landfill. The ph value of the other two samples is between the acceptable limit of the water and hence qualifies to be drinkable. The landfill did have a little effect on the water near the landfill but not as much as at the site of the landfill.

Total dissolved solids (TDS), which include inorganic salts such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulphates as well as some trace amounts of organic matter, are characterised as any minerals, salts, metals, cations, or anions dissolved in water. The water may be corrosive to metal fixtures and piping if the total dissolved solids are too low, and the corrosion by-products may cause the water to taste bitter or off. This might also imply that there are elevated quantities of trace metals in the water, either from the aquifer or from pipes inside the house. The water would taste salty, drastically erode the metal piping in your home, and cause the premature failure of equipment if the total dissolved solids were extremely high. The amount of TDS that was found at the site of the landfill was 811.0 mg/l which is very high and way above the acceptable limit of 500. The TDS at the 1 km mark is 602.0 which is also above the limit of 500 and hence is high. This would make the water samples from the site of the landfill and the 1 km mark undrinkable because of the poor quality of the water. It would also imply that several ions, such as a high concentration of nitrate, arsenic, aluminium, copper, lead, etc., are over the primary or secondary drinking water standards.


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  • Uploaded By : Katthy Wills
  • Posted on : November 30th, 2022
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