Landfills Polluting UK Rivers

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According to Natural Environment Research Council, Abandoned Landfill Sites Throughout the UK Routinely Leach 27 Tonnes Polluting Chemicals into Rivers Every Year

At Port Meadow alone, on the outskirts of Oxford, they estimate 27.5 tonnes of ammonium a year find their 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.

Port Meadow lies on the banks of the River Thames to the northwest of Oxford. The area is popular with walkers and birdwatchers, with annual winter floods attracting spectacular flocks of wildfowl and waders. 

The birds make their own contribution of ammonium to the floodplain, effectively using the wetland as an enormous open-air toilet. 

To disentangle the different sources of the chemical, and get an estimate of the total amount moving through the floodplain, the team drilled a series of boreholes, taking regular water samples for three years between May 2010 and August 2013.

Using isotopic analysis, a kind of chemical fingerprinting technique, they were able to attribute 27.5 tonnes of ammonium to household waste. 

Source: NERC Planet Earth

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