Acute toxicity test of leachates from traditional and sustainable landfills using luminescent bacteria

Waste Manag. 2006;26(10):1148-55. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2005.10.008. Epub 2005 Dec 13.


Landfilling is a fundamental step in any waste management strategy, but it can constitute a hazard for the environment for a long time. The need to protect the environment from potential landfill emissions makes risk assessment a decision tool of extreme necessity. The heterogeneity of wastes and the complexity of physical, chemical and biological processes that occur in the body of a landfill need specific procedures in order to evaluate the groundwater risk for the environment. Given the complexity of the composition of landfill leachates, the exact contribution of each potential toxic substance cannot be known precisely. Some reference contaminants that constitute the hazard (toxicity) of leachate have to be found to perform the risk assessment. A preliminary ecotoxicological investigation with luminescent bacteria has been carried out on different leachates from traditional and sustainable landfills in order to rank the chemicals that better characterize the leachate (heavy metals, ammonia and dissolved organic content). The attention has been focused on ammonia because it is present in high concentration and can last for centuries and can seriously contaminate the groundwater. The results showed that the toxicity of the leachate might reliably depend on the ammonia concentration and that the leachate toxicity is considerably lower in sustainable landfills where the ammonia had been degraded. This has an important consequence because if the containment system fails (as usually occur within 30-50yr), the risk of groundwater contamination will be calculated easier only in terms of the probability that the ammonia concentration is higher than a reference concentration.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aliivibrio fischeri / metabolism*
  • Ammonia / analysis
  • Luminescent Measurements / methods*
  • Refuse Disposal / methods*
  • Toxicity Tests / methods*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Ammonia