Saturday, August 30, 2014

Abandoned landfills polluting UK rivers

Alex Peel in the Guardian (UK) via the Natural Environment Research Council: Abandoned landfill sites throughout the UK routinely leach polluting chemicals into rivers, say scientists. At Port Meadow, on the outskirts of Oxford, about 27.5 tonnes of ammonium a year find way from landfill into the River Thames. The researchers say it could be happening at thousands of sites around the UK.

In water, ammonium breaks down into nitrogen. The extra nitrogen can trigger excessive plant growth and decay, damaging water quality and starving fish and other aquatic organisms of the oxygen they need to survive.

Scientists are most worried about so-called blue-green algal blooms, which can produce toxins capable of killing wild animals, livestock and domestic pets. In people, they can cause skin rashes, nausea, stomach pains, headaches and fever.

“We’ve been getting rid of waste for an awful long time,” says Dr Daren Gooddy, of NERC’s British Geological Survey, who led the study. “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.”

‘There are 11 landfill sites at Port Meadow alone. If you scale that up for the whole of the UK, then you’re probably talking about thousands of them.’...

A Port Meadow sunset, shot by OxOx, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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