Nitrogen aspects of hydrological processes: a case study in Likeng landfill, Guangzhou, China
The nitrogen aspects of hydrological processes must be determined to identify nitrogen sources and relevant mechanisms. Landfills are the dominant disposal approach to deal with solid waste in urban areas in China. Landfills require adequate land and pose a potential threat to aquifer contamination, particularly in the humid zone, such as Guangzhou. The unlined Likeng landfill in Guangzhou was investigated in three campaigns during the period 2001–2007: water was sampled and analyzed for major ions, heavy metals, and stable isotopes of 18O and 2H in water, and 18O and 15N in nitrate. Contamination sources, water components, and groundwater flow were examined, revealing a mixture of various sources from landfill effluent, septic tank leakage, fertilizer, and manure following complex processes of recharge, mixing, and denitrification. The effluent from the landfill was rich in Na+, Ca2+, K+, HCO3−, and Cl− ions. A similar process of high NH4+ in effluent resulting in episodic increases in NO3− because of NH4+ oxidation was found in Likeng landfill when compared with landfills in Denmark and the USA. Twenty-five percent of the precipitation was lost to evaporation before recharging the aquifer, indicating a possible maximum recharge rate of 75% and the potential for a large amount of water penetration to the landfill if not well constructed. Apparent groundwater flow velocity of 3.7 × 10−7 m s−1 (11.67 m/a) was found for the front of the effluent under the landfill by considering the vertical and horizontal flow. These findings provide background to delineate the plume from Likeng landfill and to conceptualize the natural attenuation processes of other toxic compounds, which are imperative for any remediation strategy.