Evaluation of the effect of landfill leachate on surface and groundwater quality: a case study in tropical Sri Lanka using the evidence of stable isotopes

Environ Monit Assess. 2022 Aug 2;194(9):628. doi: 10.1007/s10661-022-10282-7.


The disposal of solid wastes is a significant problem in urban areas in many developed and developing countries. Waterways are often subjected to pollution by effluents discharged from solid waste dumpsites. The stable isotopes and water quality data provide useful information on tracing pollutant sources and their contaminant pathways. The effect of a major solid waste dumpsite on surface and groundwater quality of the surrounding area was investigated by measuring water quality parameters and stable isotopes of deuterium (2H), oxygen (18O), 15 N-ΝΟ3 and 18O-NO3 in tropical Sri Lanka. The surface water and groundwater wells close to the dumpsite indicated clear evidence of leachate contamination with enriched total dissolved solids (TDS), total suspended solids (TSS), ammonia, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) and Cl- levels. The correlation of groundwater quality parameters, i.e. EC (-r2 = 0.8), TDS (-r2 = 0.8), TSS (-r2 = 0.5), ammonia (-r2 = 0.4), phosphates (-0.6), sulphates (-0.5), Cl- (-0.6) and isotope δ2H‰ (-0.9) with distance from the dumpsite, further confirmed the effects of dumpsite on groundwater quality. The composition of δ15N-ΝΟ3 and δ18O-NO3 isotopes in the groundwater indicated that the dominant source of NO3- to groundwater is manure septic originating from the dumpsite. The findings of the study provided clear evidence of the effect of open dumping on the water resources of the surrounding area and the need for remedial measures.

Keywords: Groundwater; Landfill; Leachate; Municipal solid waste disposal; Stable isotope analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Groundwater* / chemistry
  • Isotopes
  • Nitrates / analysis
  • Oxygen
  • Refuse Disposal*
  • Solid Waste / analysis
  • Sri Lanka
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis
  • Water Quality


  • Isotopes
  • Nitrates
  • Solid Waste
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Ammonia
  • Oxygen